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First Edition . . . January, 
Reprinted . . . June, 











G. G. BERRY, B.A. 






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NOV. 19, l820: JULY l6, 1894 




IN this volume (Volumes II. and III. in the English 
edition) the author has treated of Socrates, the Socratics, 
and Plato, but has not been able to add an account 
of Plato's pupils, including Aristotle and his successors. 
The space requisite for that purpose has been absorbed 
by the discussion of Plato's works with a fulness which 
proved more and more absolutely necessary as the work 
progressed. The author was, indeed, convinced from the 
beginning that the extraction of a Platonic system from 
the philosopher's writings was an impracticable task, and 
that any attempt in that direction could only yield an 
inadequate result. But the indispensability of not con- 
fining the undertaking within too narrow bounds was first 
made manifest to the author by the execution of it. The 
object in view was not merely to ascertain with approxi- 
mate certainty and describe with the greatest possible 
clearness the progress of Plato's development. A full 
appreciation of the philosopher and that not in his capa- 
city of literary artist alone was only to be gained by an 
account of the course and structure of at least the greater 
works. Not otherwise do we perceive that which in Plato 
is at once the most truly attractive and the most eminently 
important feature : the inner workings of his powerful 
intellect and profound feeling, the manifold currents of 
thought and emotion, currents which sometimes flow 
together, but which also, as in the " Philebus " (see Book V. 


chap, xviii.), occasionally cross or oppose each other. The 
task of exposition is one of whose magnitude the author 
is increasingly conscious ; and he can only hope that he 
has not fallen too unpardonably short of its demands. 


March) 1902. 

In the second edition, which has followed the first after 
so short an interval, no one will expect to find radical 
alterations. But in a considerable number of passages 
the author has endeavoured, not, as he hopes, altogether 
without success, to effect improvements in his exposition. 



December, 1902. 


















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ALKXANDRINUS, " Strom." ii. 22, 499 P. 





I. THE Homeric poems show us only the beginnings of 
city life. The course of subsequent development was deter- 
mined, as we may confidently affirm, by three main causes 
an increase in the density of population ; a corresponding 
advance in the division of labour ; and a consequent accu- 
mulation of greater and greater masses of humanity in 
cities, which grew in number and importance. Civic life 
began to gain in breadth and freedom, with results which 
affected religion and morality as well. The social instincts 
which, rooted as they are in the family affections, had, in 
the heroic age, seldom manifested themselves beyond the 
circle of blood-relationship, and then only when trans- 
planted to the soil of personal loyalty, now extended their 
dominion over a wider and wider area. Still greater was 
the progress of social morality, though it was only gradually, 
and in spite of numberless obstacles, that larger and larger 
associations of men were brought within its scope. The 
hostile camps which faced each other in the war of classes 
long remained separated by a chasm too wide to be bridged 
by any feeling of common humanity. In the second half 
of the sixth century we find the Megarian aristocrat 
Theognis longing to " drink the black blood " of his adver- 
saries, with the same unbridled passion as had characterized 
the Homeric hero praying that he might "devour his 
VOL. II. B 2 


enemy raw." And so complete, at that time, was the 
dominion of the spirit of faction over the minds of men, 
that, in the poems of the same Theognis, the words " good ' 
and " bad " have lost all reference to a moral standard, and 
become mere party-names for the upper and lower classes, 
then at strife with each other. But we must not dwell 
exclusively on the influences which kept men divided. 
Other causes were at work, making for closer and closer 
union, and these both deserve and will repay attentive 

A higher value was set on human life. In Homer's 

time he who had slain a man was protected by payment of 

the blood-fine from the avenging kinsman. " A life for a 

life " was the exception, not the rule. Much stricter was 

the ethical standard of the post-Homeric period. Every 

murder, it was now held, must be expiated in blood : till 

this be done, the state is polluted, the gods insulted. For 

this reason the office of avenger was assumed by the state 

itself; not, it is true, without intervention of those most 

nearly concerned. This advance has been ascribed to that 

deepening of the belief in souls to which we have already 

alluded, and also to the influence of a circle of prophets 

who made the Delphic oracle the medium of their efforts 

in the cause of ethical reform. There may be something 

in this view, but it is assuredly not the whole truth. That 

the punishment of crime should be accounted a public 

concern, and unpunished crime a public disgrace, was 

without doubt an advance such as influences of the kind 

we have just alluded to may well have helped to bring 

about. But the doctrine that blood must atone for blood 

is not specially distinctive of the highest stages of ethical 

development. It we go to modern Arabia, we find this 

doctrine prevailing among the inhabitants of the desert, 

with whom the vendetta is an institution, while the 

dwellers in cities content themselves with exacting the 

blood-fine. Homeric practice does not, in this particular, 

bear the stamp of the earliest antiquity ; rather may we 

see in it just such a relaxation of primitive morality as 

would naturally mark a period of migrations and warlike 


adventure, in which human life had been cheapened below 
its normal rate, and the protective power of the ties of 
kinship had been weakened. We may here note, not for the 
first time (see Vol. I, p. 80), that the faith and practice of 
post-Homeric times appear as the true continuation of 
the earliest traditions of the race, while the state of society 
depicted in epic poetry is to be regarded as a temporary 
deviation from the direct line of development. 

Another point must be emphasized. Allowing that 
this advance in civilization was in part due to the activity 
of religious enthusiasts, the latter were but instruments in 
a movement whose causes were of a more general order. 
As roving and warlike ideals gave way before a settled 
and peaceable mode of life, and the bourgeois class and 
the bourgeois temperament gained predominance, men's 
ideas about the world of gods could not but suffer change. 
The forces of nature, which had formerly been worshipped 
solely for their irresistible power, now became, in ever-in- 
creasing degree, the protectors and upholders of that good 
order which is indispensable for the common welfare (cf.Vol. 
I. p. 133, seq.). And as the concurrent progress of natural 
science introduced more and more of uniformity into men's 
conception of the universe, so that in the divine govern- 
ment of the world less and less room could be seen for 
the operation of conflicting passions and caprices, there 
was brought about a change in religious ideas which may 
be described, with a near approach to truth, as a moraliza- 
tion of the primitive powers of nature. The qualification 
is necessary, for the religion of the Hellenes remained a 
religion of nature to the end. But there now appeared, as 
its central figure, a power which defended right and 
punished crime a power which generally took form as 
Zeus, the god of the heavens, supreme over the other 
deities, but which was also referred to simply as " God," 
without further qualification, or as " The Divine," a mode 
of speech from which polytheistic faith took no serious 
harm. Thus was the Greek mind led to paint its many- 
coloured picture of the world of gods. We have already 
seen this picture in the pages of Herodotus, and it meets 


us again in the great poets, especially the tragedians, 
among whom we are bound to give precedence to 

2. We are unwilling to name the greatest of Greek 
poets without paying due toll of reverent gratitude. The 
purifying power of poetry has been more written about than 
felt. He who would come under its direct influence should 
glance through a play of /Eschylus. He will hardly read 
twenty lines without feeling that a liberating, an ennobling, 
an enlarging influence has been exerted upon his soul. 
We are here faced by one of the most attractive problems 
of human nature. Poetry shares with music the power 
possessed in a lower degree by the other arts, and even by 
the beautiful in nature, of creating that inward peace which 
reigns when the whole personality dominates over its minor 
elements, and of producing the intense pleasure peculiar to 
this state of psychical equilibrium. How it is that such 
an effect is possible, is a question which may perhaps be 
answered, with more assurance than is justifiable now, in an 
age when aesthetic as w r ell as ethical problems come to be 
treated on the lines of biology. But, to resume, there are 
two great difficulties in utilizing the testimony of ^Eschylus 
and his successors as to the changes in Greek thought, 
The poet is influenced by artistic considerations scarcely 
less than by his speculative and religious views, and the 
dramatist must endow his creations with distinctive beliefs 
and dispositions, only in part harmonizing with his own. 
But, after making wide allowance for these restrictions, 
enough remains to render the testimony of this extraordi- 
nary man, one who was not only the mirror, but also in 
part the maker of his times, of the greatest possible value 
to us. 

To Eschylus, more than to any other, is due the con- 
ception of the supreme God, the " ruler of rulers," the " most 
blessed of the blessed," as a requiting, a rewarding, and 
punishing judge. Firm as a rock is the poet's faith that 
every unrighteous deed must be expiated, and that, too, 
on earth. We ought not to be surprised at such optimism. 
Did not ^Eschylus fight at Marathon, at Salamis, and at 


Plataea ? Did he not see the world-compelling power of 
the " great king " miraculously humbled to the dust by little 
Greece, indeed, by his own modest Athens ? He who hud 
witnessed a divine judgment of this nature, and had been 
privileged to help in the execution of it with his own right 
arm, could have had little doubt in the omnipotence of 
divine justice, or in its realization on earth. Such were the 
thoughts amid which the poet lived and wrought, strong 
in the comfortable assurance that everything evil must in 
the end " make shipwreck on the rock of justice." This 
was the hope from which he drew happiness. 

" When Might and Right go joined in equal yoke, 
Was ever seen a fairer team than this ? " 

It is for this very reason that, as we have already re- 
marked, he so seldom casts a glance beyond the limits of 
the present world. The raptures of the world to come, 
which the Theban Pindar, largely under the influence of 
the Orphic school, described with so much enthusiasm, 
were of little account to his Athenian contemporary, 
kindred soul as he was. But while the dramas of ^Eschylus 
reflect the triumphal glories of the Persian war, the 
gloomy, and quasi-irrational, features of traditional Greek 
religion are not wholly absent from his pages. He, like 
Herodotus, knows something of the envy and the ill will 
of the gods. But these portions of his inherited faith were 
placed by him as it were in the background of his scheme 
of the universe. Consider the Promethean trilogy. The 
Titan's guilt is his good will towards man ; for this he 
endures the unspeakable torment assigned him by Zeus. 
But the torment does not last for ever. The conclusion of 
this powerful work had for its theme a reconciliation with 
the mighty god of the heavens, and the liberation of the 
benefactor of mankind from his chains. We have here 
what may be truly called a process of development, an 
advance to purer and higher ideals within the circle of the 
gods. This strange process the counterpart of what we 
have already termed the creation in nature of peace out of 
struggle (Vol. I. p. 88) admits of but one explanation. 


The poet was under the necessity of reconciling the conflict- 
ing claims of religious tradition and of his own convictions. 
The two could not stand side by side without destroying 
each other. But, by alternate recognition, it was possible 
to do justice to both. Similar characteristics, develop- 
mental, we may call them, are to be noted in the Oresteia. 
At the bidding of the Delphic god, Orestes performs the 
commandment, horrible in its application to him, that he 
should execute vengeance upon the blood-guilty. But the 
matricide is seized by the madness sent upon him by 
the avenging spirits of Clytemnestra. In other words, the 
humane sentiment of the poet and his age revolts against 
the merciless severity of the old law of retaliation. The 
foundation of the Areopagus, with its milder procedure, 
forms a denouement which reconciles the claims of conflicting 
ideals. There is another motive, of a still more subjective 
character, which may well have contributed to the unmis- 
takable deviation from tradition which occurs in these 
trilogies. We may be sure that a passionate and richly 
endowed nature, like that of our poet, did not attain inward 
peace without a struggle. May we hazard the conjecture 
that he gives us, so to speak, a materialized representation 
of this slow and painful process of illumination and appease- 
ment ; that he has, without knowing it, projected his own 
spiritual experiences into the history of the world of gods ? 
But though ^Eschylus is our main witness for the progress 
of the gods in morals and humane feeling, yet he by no 
means forsook the native soil of the Hellenic religion of 
nature. The theological wavering which we have already 
noticed in Herodotus, recurs in this far more strenuous 
soul. In that fragment of the "Daughters of the Sun," 
which we have already had occasion to quote in another 
connexion (Vol. I. p. 97), ^Eschylus appears as the 
prophet of that pantheistic faith which identified Zeus with 
the universe an instructive example of the suppleness and 
freedom from dogmatic rigidity of the religious thought of 
those days. 

For with stubborn persistency the old maintained its 
place side by side with the new, and might even, on 


occasion, gain the upper hand. So it was in the case of 
Sophocles, the second of the great tragic poets, who stands 
much nearer to Homer than did his predecessor. It is 
true that in the work of the later poet there arc traces of 
the spirit which breathes through the dramas of the earlier 
one, and indeed we may almost say that every funda- 
mental thought of ^Eschylus is repeated by Sophocles. 
But though the strain is the same, the tones have lost 
their clearness, and the discords are harsher. We find 
here diminished power of thought coupled with increased 
wealth of observation. To use a comparison which must 
not be taken too seriously, Sophocles is less of an a-priorist, 
more of an empiric, than yEschylus. There is in his work 
a richer variety and a sharper delineation of individual 
characters, but less of unity in the outlook upon life and 
the world. At one time much ado was made about the 
" moral order of the universe " which was supposed to 
reign in the tragedies of Sophocles. A more impartial 
and penetrating criticism has destroyed the illusion. 
Sophocles, it is true, holds as firmly as ^Eschylus that 
the fate of man is governed by divine ordinance. But 
there is often the most glaring disproportion between 
character and destiny. Before the mysterious, sometimes 
appalling decrees of providence the poet stands in helpless 
perplexity. But though perplexed, he is not overwhelmed ; 
he bows in reverence before the enigmas of divine govern- 
ance. Was he not, in the judgment of his contemporaries, 
" one of the most pious," and apart from his profession of 
poet, " one of the honest Athenians " ? He -makes no 
claim to understand everything, nor is he presumptuous 
enough to measure swords with the incomprehensible. It 
is only occasionally that his outraged sense of justice, or 
a feeling of doubt and dread, betrays him into a cry of 
protest. Broadly speaking, he accepts with calmness the 
hardships of human destiny. His attitude may be described 
as one of renouncement, of resigned melancholy, so far as 
such an expression may be applied to so wonderfully 
harmonious a nature, to one so full of patriotic pride, and, 
above all, to one so keenly alive to the joy of artistic 


creation. It was this temper that dictated the bitter 
saying, " Not to be born is the best fate of all." It is 
the same spirit that speaks to us in the works of Herodotus, 
himself a personal friend of Sophocles. The instability of 
good fortune, the mutability of all that is earthly, the 
precariousness of human existence, are themes which are 
touched upon in most ages not wholly given over to levity. 
But the key varies, and the emphasis is now stronger, now 
weaker, according to the individual character of the writer 
and the circumstances of his age. To the earlier Greek, 
life wore the aspect of an unclouded sky ; but in the 
interval between Homer and Herodotus many and many 
a dark mass had gathered over its clear azure (cf. Vol. I. pp. 
38, So, 130, 136). And in the complaint of Herodotus, 
that Greece had been visited by heavier afflictions in his 
time than in twenty preceding generations, we may find 
something like a key to the peculiar and exceptional 
emphasis which Sophocles, Herodotus, and, above all, 
Euripides, lay on the ills of human life. 

3. In Euripides, utterances of the kind we have men- 
tioned no longer occur singly. The thought contained in 
the lines we have just quoted from Sophocles has now 
become a commonplace. This melancholy conception of 
life finds its strongest expression in a quatrain which may 
be thus rendered 

" Greet the new-born with sad and dirge-like note 
Of mourning for the ills he must sustain ; 
But, soon as death shall rescue him from pain, 
Sing pceans o'er his grave with lusty throat." 

If it be asked what causes of a general nature produced 
this gloomy turn of sentiment, we must answer First and 
foremost, the growth of reflexion. This explanation sounds 
more paradoxical than it really is. Let us imagine that 
the inventive genius of our own day had succeeded in 
carrying its latest and most magnificent triumphs to 
undreamt-of lengths had liberated sense-perception from 
every limitation of space by which it is still hampered, had 
abolished the distinction between near and far for eye as 


well as ear. Could such things be, life might well become 
an intolerable burden. A host of painful impressions would 
besiege us without intermission. Without cease we should 
be listening to the cries of women in travail, the groans of 
the dying, Should we find compensation in the more 
cheerful sounds which might simultaneously strike on our 
ears ? Few would venture to say we should. Effects of a 
similar nature are produced by reflexion. It diminishes in 
no small measure the difference between what is near and 
what is remote in point of time. It increases to an 
astonishing degree the power and the habit both of 
anticipating future impressions and of reviving those of 
the past. It enables the past and the future to dispute 
the supremacy of the present. It transforms the thought- 
less gaiety of youth into the earnestness of mature age, 
with its regretful retrospects and its anxious forecasts. 
Such, in the period we are now considering, was the effect 
of the growing tendency towards reflexion which was then 
beginning to work with a force and freshness as yet 
unimpaired by use. The justice of this view, with regard 
to Euripides at least, is proved by those passages which 
exhibit his pessimism, not as a ready-made product, but in 
the make. In primitive ages, and to-day among primitive 
folk, children are accounted an unquestioned blessing. 
This belief is not spared by the sceptical dialectic of 
Euripides. It is not only that he describes often and in 
moving fashion the sorrows of parents visited by adverse 
fate ; he boldly faces the question whether the childless 
life is not the better one : " Children who turn out ill are 
the worst of misfortunes ; those who turn out well bring 
with them a new pain the torturing fear lest some evil 
befall them." It is the same when Euripides speaks of 
wealth or noble birth. The joy of possession is for him 
closely bound up with the anxious dread of loss. Noble 
birth is a danger, because it is no protection from poverty, 
and the ruined noble finds his family pride an obstacle in 
the way of a livelihood. Thus the eye of the poet, like 
that of the bird of night, is more at home in darkness than 
in light, and spies out everywhere the evil to which the 


possession of good may give rise. We are thus led to the 
consideration of the objective causes of this pessimistic 
tendency. Their nature may be judged from the passage 
we have already quoted from Herodotus. To the pressure 
of the never-ending war we ought doubtless to add a 
chancre for the worse in home affairs. The economic 


conditions of Greece and of Athens at this time can 
scarcely be called normal. We learn this from the recru- 
descence of the class struggle which had been temporarily 
hushed, and from the violent character which this struggle 
now assumed. The revolutionary horrors, the deeds of 
desperation which accompanied the varying phases of the 
Peloponnesian war, and which are described in the im- 
mortal pages of Thucydides, can only be explained as the 
result of grave disturbance of the economic equilibrium. 
We cannot but suppose that the unceasing wars of this 
period must have made the poor poorer, while the 
opportunities for sudden enrichment, which are never 
wanting in tumultuous times, must have added to the 
wealth of the wealthier class. Social contrasts were thus 
greatly heightened. On this point we have the valuable 
testimony of Euripides himself, in his affecting commenda- 
tion of the middle condition. It is thus that men praise a 
boon they have lost or fear to lose. The growing demands 
for state aid raised by the multitude may, perhaps, have 
been to some extent the outcome of increased desire for 
the good things of life, but they were also largely due to 
real distress, such as must have been occasioned by the 
repeated devastations of Attica, and the hampering of 
trade and industry by the protracted war. 

We must further take into consideration the unrest 
peculiar to all great transition periods. In the mind of 
Euripides there is, after his pessimism, no more marked 
feature than his inconsistency, his oscillation between 
opposed tendencies of thought. Herein he is a true mirror 
of an age which was cutting itself adrift from the anchorage 
of authority and tradition. Just as in the cool grotto on 
the coast of Salamis, his muse's favourite workshop, he 
loved to sit and let the sea breeze fan his cheek, in the 


same way he delighted to suffer each shifting breath of 
opinion in turn to seize upon and move his soul. Now he 
sings a lofty strain in praise of that bold and fearless spirit 
of inquiry which, as revealed to him in the teaching of 
Anaxagoras and Diogenes, had stirred his inmost depths ; 
or he descants on the happiness and celebrates the civic 
virtues of their disciples. Anon, in verses of no less fire, 
he "spurns the crooked deceit of those who pry into the 
heavens," men whose "wicked tongue, a stranger to all 
true wisdom," denies that which is divine, and claims to 
know the unknowable. It is difficult to pierce through the 
maze of conflicting utterances to the underlying ground of 
common thought. But though difficult, it is not impossible. 
Euripides continues the ethical reformation of the gods 
begun by ./Eschylus. :< If gods do evil, then they are not 
gods." This pithy sentence sums up his divinity. It 
contains the essence of all the objections and all the 
accusations which he never wearies of bringing forward 
against the traditional religion of his countrymen. For 
there is one point in which he differs entirely from his 
predecessors from Sophocles as much as from ^Eschylus or 
Pindar. Each one of these was what in English political 
parlance is termed a "trimmer." They were continually 
endeavouring to pour the new wine into the old bottles. 
They rewrote the old myths in order to bring them into 
harmony with their own ethical and religious sentiments. 
They were at pains to eliminate all that seemed to them 
objectionable or unworthy of the gods. Euripides, who in 
general cannot be called nai've, follows, in this respect, the 
simpler and more direct procedure. He is much more 
faithful to tradition than his predecessors, and one is 
sometimes tempted to think that he deliberately avoids 
diminishing the openings presented to criticism by the 
popular beliefs. The truth is that he abandons the task 
of reconciliation as hopeless. There is too wide a gulf 
between tradition and his personal convictions. Instead of 


softening down the more repellent features of mythology, 
he reproduces them with exact fidelity, and assails the 
resulting picture of the gods with scathing censure and flat 


contradiction. His audacity in this respect reminds us of 
Xenophanes, whom he further resembles in his unsparing 
attacks upon other fundamental points of Greek sentiment 
the exaggerated appreciation of bodily excellences, and 
the idolatry lavished upon athletes victorious in the 
national games. 

In ^Eschylus the tendency towards a more ethical 
conception of the gods was accompanied by faith and 
trust in them ; in Euripides the same tendency was 
associated with wavering and doubt. He was convinced, 
indeed, that gods steeped in human passions and weaknesses 
were unworthy of adoration. But did ideally perfect gods 
-gods who were worthy of adoration really exist or not ? 
On this point he inclines, sometimes towards belief, some- 
times towards doubt. In a certain passage, the boldest of 
all he ever wrote, or at all events of all that have come 
down to us, he raises, in all earnestness, the question 
whether Zeus is not identical with "natural necessity," or 
" the spirit of humanity." But he did not persist to the 
end in this attitude of doubt and of revolt against the 
religion of his countrymen. In the "Bacchae," the product of 
his old age, he appears in an entirely new guise. He has 
now, one may say, grown weary of logical subtleties and 
petty criticism ; the forces of mysticism, hitherto latent in 
his mind, have burst the bonds of restraining reason ; 
henceforth he is entirely dominated by religion a religion, 
we may add, which is completely divorced from ethics. 
We see the frenzied Maenads, with their ecstatic enthu- 
siasms and the unbridled fervour of their cult of Dionysus, 
gaining the victory over the guardians of morality and the 
representatives of sober sense. It is as if the aged poet 
wished to make atonement for the apostasy of the national 
genius, to return to the peaceful worship of nature in which 
the play of feeling is untrammelled by reflexion. Nor is 
this attitude wholly foreign to his earlier works. In the 
"Hippolytus" Euripides paints the picture of a chaste, 
strenuously moral youth, whom he endows with features 
that recall the -\ Lie and Pythagorean Askesis. Aphrodite, 
to whom Hippolytus refuses all homage, hurls him to 


destruction, by causing his stepmother Phredra first to be 
consumed by passionate love for him, and then, when he 
spurns her advances, to take a fearful vengeance. On 
which side are the poet's sympathies ? We may be sure 
that his heart goes out in no small measure to the innocent, 
ill-starred youth. But in the fate of Hippolytus he sees 
more than the mere vengeance of a cruel goddess, jealously 
guarding her own prerogative. To his Hellenic mind the 
attempt of the youth to escape the universal dominion of 
love appears as a presumptuous defiance of nature's 
ordinance, which may not go unpunished. The words of 
warning and counsel which the poet puts in the mouth of 
the aged servant near the beginning of the drama leave no 
room for doubt on this head. 

Still, in greatly preponderating measure, Euripides was 
a representative of the age of enlightenment and its most 
far-reaching claims. Again and again he entered the lists 
in defence of the equality of all human beings. It is not 
the privileges of noble birth alone that he attacks without 
ceasing. He has the courage to assail one of the pillars of 
society, the institution of slavery, and the theory on which 
it rests. He holds that, beyond the name, there is no differ- 
ence between the bastard and the true born, no difference 
in nature, but only in convention, between bond and free 
(cf. Vol. I. p. 401, seq.). " In the breast of the despised serf 
there often beats a nobler heart than in that of his master." 
Thoughts such as these had possibly been already expressed 
by Hippias of Elis; he had at least paved the way for them 
by drawing his deep-going distinction between nature and 
convention. Similar sentiments will meet us again in the 
schools of the Socratics. It was long before the recognized 
leaders of thought acknowledged their justice. One might 
almost suppose that ancient society, founded as it was upon 
slavery, was led by the instinct of self-preservation to resist 
theories more subversive of it than any religious heresy. 

Utterances such as those we have quoted must, we 
cannot but think, have come from the heart as well as 
from the head. We are justified in connecting them with 
the march of enlightenment, because here, as well as in 


other matters, old prejudices had to be destroyed before 
new sentiments could begin to grow. For this growth the 
ground was cleared by the rationalistic movement. But 
this movement was not itself the soil in which the new 
plant throve and multiplied. We say multiplied, for it is 
in the highest degree improbable that such a change of 
feeling should have been confined to one or two persons. 
At Athens and elsewhere, democracy had levelled the 
differences between classes, and the levelling process was 
not one which could be summoned to halt at an arbitrarily 
chosen stage. The author of the treatise " On the Consti- 
tution of Athens," to which the reader's attention has only 
too often been directed (Vol. I. pp. 499, sqq.\ can never 
sufficiently censure the audacity of the metics and slaves. 
And in so doing he lets fall by the way many a charac- 
teristic remark which for us is pregnant with inferences. 
The chief arm of Athens her navy required a great ex- 
penditure of money, which, he tells us, was partly supplied 
by contributions from metics and slaves. For this reason 
the state was obliged to concede many rights to these 
classes ; the citizens, too, could not afford to be too 
niggardly in the matter of emancipations, with the result 
that, as a body, they had become the " slaves of the 
slaves." Another circumstance of great importance was 
the following : ' If it were permissible to strike an unknown 
slave, metic, or freed man, there would be great danger 
of assaulting a free citizen unawares," so slight was the 
difference in point of dress and general appearance between 
the ordinary man and the members of these classes. It 
thus became the rule, we may add for our part, to treat 
with less brutality those members of society who had in 
former times been denied all rights, and the difference in 
treatment would naturally be followed by diminished 
brutality of sentiment. If we possessed the police records 
of that day, they would doubtless bear witness to a dimi- 
nution in crimes of violence, the victims of which are 
supplied in greatest proportion by the less-protected strata 
of society, and at the same time a corresponding increase 
in those crimes which require cunning and a ready wit. 


For it is an obvious conjecture that the growth of subtlety 
and inventive power, which resulted from the progress of 
dialectic and rhetoric, would naturally be accompanied by 
an increase in the abuse of these faculties. And this con- 
jecture is only strengthened by the complaints of Euripides 
himself as to the baneful influence of " too fair speech," 
and the glibness which could veil every injustice, quite as 
much as by the dialogue between the personified just and 
unjust causes in the " Clouds " of Aristophanes. But any 
attempt to make a comparative estimate of the strength of 
the conflicting influences, to weigh the good against the 
evil, must be abandoned for lack of data. 

There is the more reason to dwell on the humane 
tendency of the age of enlightenment, because in our day 
many have endeavoured to make this movement, together 
with the so-called " Sophistic school ' and its supposed 
products, "extreme individualism" and "ethical material- 
ism," responsible for all the excesses and all the horrors 
which were witnessed by the close of the fifth century. 
The baseless character of these charges is clear enough 
from the earlier parts of our exposition, and in what follows 
we shall often have occasion to return to the subject. But, 
apart from this, can any one imagine that in the periods 
which preceded the age of enlightenment men were any 
the less selfish or less brutal in their selfishness ? Let it 
be noted that it was Hesiod, who was free from the least 
tendency to rationalism, that advised the farmer to make 
the wage-labourer "homeless," that is, turn him adrift on 
the high-road, when he had no further need for his services. 
Nor was it rationalism that moved the Attic patricians (or 
Eupatridae) before Solon's time to thrust the mass of the 
people into serfdom, to leave them to drag out a miserable 
existence as " payers of the sixth," and to sell thousands 
of them as slaves into foreign countries. Nor was Theognis, 
who yearns for the return of the time when the submissive 
peasants of the rural districts wandered to and fro like 
frightened game, and were deprived of every share in political 
rights, a disciple of the sophists. That which really requires 
explanation is not the renewed outbreak and the violent 


manifestations of the class-struggle in the course of the 
Peloponnesian war. On the contrary, the real question to 
be answered is How did it come about that the conflict 
of classes which, up to the time of Clisthenes, had been 
waged, both in Greece at large and in Athens in particular, 
with so much bitterness, ceased almost entirely during 
the period from the end of the sixth to the middle of the 
fifth century, and even then, apart from isolated outbreaks, 
such as the murder of Ephialtes, wore a comparatively 
mild character up to the beginning of the Peloponnesian 
war ? 

To this question the true answer is probably as follows : 
Causes of different kinds, partly political, partly economic, 
combined to produce the same happy result. We may 
mention the splendid success of the Athenian empire ; the 
growth of commerce and industry under the protection of 
its navy ; the temporary ascendency of a middle class which 
had been slowly ripening for power ; the better provision 
made for the material wants of the lower classes, and that 
too, in the first instance, without any merciless plundering 
of the allied states ; and, not least, the legislation of 
Clisthenes himself and his immediate successors, deliberately 
aimed as it was at the extinction of class antipathies and 
the fusion of the different elements composing the state. 
There was also a psychological cause, the action of which, 
though not to be exaggerated, must have been felt for a 
few decades beyond the circle of Athenian predominance 
the enhanced feeling of nationality due to the Persian war, 
a feeling which must have brought different classes as well 
as different states nearer to each other. This was the era 
of fruition in Greek as well as in Athenian history a brief 
but extraordinarily fertile interval of rest between different 
phases of the class-struggle. We have already spoken of 
the economic changes which inflamed this struggle and 
occasioned its most acute paroxysms. If, on the other 
hand, Athenian ascendency assumed a more and more 
violent character, the cause is to be sought in the extreme 
susceptibility of Greek political sentiment, which could 
tolerate no subordination, even when defined and regulated 


by law, of one state to another. Thus an unyielding temper 
on the part of the allies, and a disposition on the part of 
the predominant power to stretch its authority beyond 
constitutional limits, gave rise to an unhappy series of 
conflicts. Hence ensued various attempts at secession, to 
which the Peloponnesian war, with its varying fortunes, 
afforded special temptation ; and these were always followed 
by punitive measures of great harshness, which it is very 
easy to regard as symptoms of moral degeneracy, and set 
down to the account of the age of enlightenment. But in 
order to form a correct judgment on these and other accusa- 
tions, it is necessary to subject the international ethics of 
this and the immediately preceding period to an exami- 
nation which need not be long, but promises to be fertile 
in more than one respect. 

4. Greek international morality falls naturally into two 
sharply separated divisions, according as it concerned the 
relations of different Greek states to each other, or of 
Greeks to the outside " barbarian ' world. In the latter 
case, self-interest was allowed practically uncontrolled 
sway ; in the former, definite though elastic limits were 
recognized. That dominion over the barbaric races 
belonged to the Hellene as of right was never seriously 
called in question, often as individual barbarians might be 
credited with high human excellence. Even the poet of 
the age of enlightenment preaches this doctrine, possibly 
with some mental reservation which was certainly not 
shared by his public, in the words, " Let the alien serve 
the Hellene ; they are bondmen, we are free." The con- 
viction here expressed is one which reigned undisputed up 
to a comparatively late epoch. The practice of the Greeks, 
at any rate, in spite of isolated utterances in opposition to 
this doctrine, remained unaffected until the ground was 
cut away from it by the fusion of peoples accomplished by 
Alexander ; the practice, both of states, which considered 
the pillage and enslavement of even the most innocent 
non-Greek communities as entirely justifiable, and the 
practice of individuals, whose outrages on barbarians often 
stood in the most glaring contrast with their conduct in 


other relations. It is disconcerting to find the pious dis- 
ciple of Socrates and the diligent student of ethics, 
Xenophon, wasting Thrace with fire and sword at the 
bidding of Seuthes. For a moment one is inclined to 


think that on this occasion Xenophon fell far below the 
level of the current morality of his day. But this impres- 
sion is soon removed by the consideration that the writer, 
with his officer's sense of honour, is always concerned to 
exhibit his career in the best possible light, and that he 
cannot therefore in this connexion have been conscious of 
any offence against the prevailing moral ideas of his 
countrymen. A full generation later, no less a person 
than Aristotle affirms the entire lawfulness of slave-raids 
on barbarian tribes, as well as the wholesale reduction of 
them to the condition of serfs. He even goes so far as to 
recommend these practices in the interests of the bar- 
barians themselves, on the ground of their being incapable 
of self-government. Civilization had made small progress 
in this quarter, if we except the above-mentioned humaner 
treatment of slaves. There is only one point in which we 
are able to observe any advance. According to the de- 
scription in the " Iliad," one Greek hero after another stabs 
the fallen Hector with sword or spear, " None came nigh 
him that did not wound him." Against such wanton insult 
and mutilation of the dead many a vigorous protest was 
raised by the humaner sentiment of the fifth century ; and 
these protests were uttered, not only by poets such as 
Moschion the tragedian, but also by the historian Herodotus, 
and, if the latter speaks truth, by the Spartan king Pau- 
sanias. The victor of Plataea is reported to have indig- 
nantly rejected the suggestion that he should avenge the 
ill-treatment of the dead Leonidas on the body of the 
Persian general Mardonius. Much more important pro- 
gress was made in what has been fitly called " inter- 
Hellenic" ethics. This was due to the comparative 
slowness with which the consciousness of the unity of the 
Greek races developed. Homer appears hardly to know 
any collective name for the Hellenic nation. This is not 
the place to discuss in detail how the nation became aware 


of its unity, how the common heritage of shrines, oracles, 
public games, works of literature, and finally, the wars 
waged in common against foreign enemies, fostered and 
strengthened the sense of nationality in the whole race. 
Nor shall we dwell here on the rise of numerous confede- 
rations, organized with varying degrees of closeness or 
laxity. The common interests of entire districts, the 
necessity of safeguarding navigation, the desire to protect 
from the changing fortunes of war certain of the more 
fundamental requisites of existence, were some of the 
motives which led to the formation of all kinds of combi- 
nations, which were placed under the guardianship of gods 
worshipped in common. Of these leagues of neighbouring 
states the most important historically, because of its long- 
continued, sometimes beneficial, sometimes disastrous 
activity, was the Amphictyonic, which centred in the shrine 
of Apollo at Delphi. The members of this league were 
not only united for the protection of the Delphic oracle, 
and the " Holy Land ' appurtenant to it, by their oath to 
assist the god against any aggressor "with mouth, with 
hand, with foot, and with all their might." They were 
also sworn to set certain bounds to the exercise of the 
rights of war, such as not to deprive opponents of the use 
of well-water, and not to raze besieged cities to the 
ground. It is true that, in spite of these solemn oaths, 
the holy land itself became an apple of discord between 
the members of the confederacy, and that more than one 
" holy war " was waged for its possession. It is true also 
that complaints were raised, not without foundation, of 
bribes being accepted by the Pythia, and of the misuse 
of the Delphic oracle in the interests of particular states 
or parties, sometimes even for anti-national ends. But, 
broadly speaking, the priestly staff of the oracle deserved 
well of Greece, that land of many states, by its efforts in 
the cause of national unity. Not only the rights and obli- 
gations connected with religion, but such matters as the 
construction of roads, and even the calendar, were brought 
under uniform or nearly uniform regulations emanating 
from this source. Next to Delphi we must place Olympia. 


The games celebrated there supplied more than one occa- 
sion for the profession of pan-Hellenic sentiment, and the 
" truce of God," which was associated with the festival, at 
least procured the neighbouring districts a temporary 
respite from warfare. 

For, in general, war, unceasing war, was the watchword 
of Greek political life. The little nation was ever at feud 
with itself. The Persian general Mardonius, if we are to 
believe Herodotus, expressed, as well he might, his aston- 
ishment that the Greeks, "who spoke one language," did 
not prefer to settle their differences amicably, " by heralds 
and ambassadors," instead of invariably resorting to arms. 
It is easy to understand why the poet of enlightenment 
praised the blessings of peace with such fervour, and 
bewailed the unreason which ever kindled afresh the torch 
of war, until the weaker party was reduced to serfdom. 
And yet so tortuous is the course of human development 
we cannot rid ourselves of a sneaking doubt whether a 
Hellas blessed with perpetual peace, united in a con- 
federacy, or possibly a single state, would ever have 
achieved so much in art and science as did that divided 
Hellas whose powers were braced, though at the same time 
all too soon exhausted, by the incessant competition of 
war. To pass by other historic parallels, the Italy of the 
Renaissance, which is the exactest counterpart we can find 
to the culminating period of Greek history, presents us 
with an entirely similar spectacle, equally depressing to 
the more short-sighted among the friends of humanity, and 
equally cheering to those who prize what is highest in 
human achievement. But, be that as it may, what the 
above-mentioned factors of national unity really effected 
was a toning down of the extreme brutalities of warfare. 
In the foreground we may place respect for death. It is 
true that even in the " Iliad " we find that to grant a truce 
for the burial of the dead is considered as a duty owed to 
universal humanity. But the poem as a whole contradicts 
this point of view, and we can only regard the isolated 
utterance as the addition of a later age. At the very 
beginning of the epic, the poet declares that the wrath of 


Achilles will send many brave souls of heroes to the realms 
below, and give their bodies to be the prey of dogs and 
birds. In another passage we have the goddess Athene, 
the enemy of Troy, exclaiming, " Many a Trojan shall 
sate, with the flesh and the fat of his body, Dogs and birds, 
as he lies on the sand by the ships of Achaea." And the 
hero Diomedes exults with grim humour over the success 
of his javelin-throw ; his victim shall rot where he reddens 
the ground, and "birds, rather than women, shall flock 
round him." Again, the " Iliad " is full of combats waged 
round the bodies of the fallen heroes. The two armies 
endeavour, with all the force and endurance they possess, to 
wrest from each other, not the spoil merely, but the stripped 
bodies themselves. Even the story contained in the last 
book, in which a somewhat gentler spirit prevails, rests on the 
supposition that the acceptance of a ransom for a corpse 
is not the rule but the exception. It requires the inter- 
vention, the express command, of the supreme god, to make 
Achilles forego his designs upon the body of Hector. It 
is not till we come to the " Thebai's," a poem of much later 
date, in which, too, Greeks fight with Greeks, not with 
barbarians, that we find an epic closing with the solemn 
burial of all the fallen combatants, by permission of the 
victor, left master of the field. From that time onward it 
was an unquestioned principle that not only should dead 
warriors be spared all mutilation, but also that they should 
not be denied the honour of funeral rites. 

Nor was it in the interests of the dead alone that the 
feeling of common Hellenism asserted itself. The victor 
was required to spare the life and liberty of the vanquished. 
But this protection did not extend to their goods. Whether, 
and to what extent, the rights of property should be re- 
spected, what, in general terms, the fate of the defeated 
side was to be, depended on the nature of the war, the 
magnitude of the victory, and partly on the character of 
the vanquished party. The entire destruction, root and 
branch, of a Greek community was seldom attempted, and 
never with success ; such attempts, moreover, were only 
made under cover of special circumstances, which were 


seldom considered sufficient justification. But the expulsion 
of the conquered population, and the partition of its land, 
as well as the reduction of independent proprietors to the 
status of tributary peasants, are measures which not only 
were put in actual practice by Greeks engaged in warfare 
against other Greeks, but were not even regarded as exceed- 
ing the limits prescribed by the laws of war, though in the 
great majority of cases the victors were satisfied with a 
much smaller disturbance of existing conditions. But that 
butchery of prisoners which in the Homeric poems is con- 
sidered " fitting," though often omitted, passed, in historical 
times at least, as inadmissible between Greeks. Nor might 
Greek cities be subjected to the terrible fate described in 
the " Iliad : " " Flames devour the city, the men are slain by 
the sword-point, Children are carried away, and with them 
the low-girded women." Exceptions to the rule of mercy 
are certainly not unknown, but they are few in number, and 
may generally be explained, if not justified, by special 
circumstances. The Thebans, who claimed to be the right- 
ful lords of Bceotia, or, at least, that their city was its 
natural capital, showed no pity to prisoners of war who 
were natives of other Boeotian cities. The Syracusans con- 
sidered the interference of Athens in the affairs of Sicily 
a grievous wrong, and, after their brilliant victory over the 
intruders, sent thousands of them to die in the quarries, 
where nominally they were held prisoners, but in reality 
perished miserably of starvation, exposure, and over-crowd- 
ing. Nor did Athens preserve an unstained record under 
the stress and strain of the Peloponnesian war. After the 
capture of Torone, a city which had seceded from the 
Athenian confederation, the women and children were sold 
into slavery ; the men, however, who had been brought 
prisoners to Athens, and, at the close of the war, ransomed 
or exchanged, were spared the extreme penalty. Scione, 
another seceding city, fared worse. Here the enslavement 
of the women and children was accompanied by the 
slaughter of the men, and the division of the land, which 
was given by the Athenians to refugees from Platoea. This 
city had five years previously (427) been taken, after a 

ME LOS. 05 

tedious siege, by the Spartans, who, under pressure from 
the Thebans, had punished it for its infidelity to their cause 
by the enslavement of the women, the execution of the 
surviving combatants, and the complete destruction of the 
walls and buildings. The similar treatment of Melos by 
the Athenians appears all the more revolting when we 
consider the previous history of the island. Originally a 
Spartan colony, it had been long autonomous, and was 
guilty of no breach of loyalty to the confederation. More 
than that, it had taken no part whatever in the war, and only 
took arms on being summoned by the Athenians to abandon 
the neutrality it had hitherto (till 416) observed. This 
violation of a neutral state is not without modern parallels 
we may mention the English bombardment of Copen- 
hagen in 1807 and it does not differ in principle from the 
treatment accorded to neutral merchantmen by the Spartans 
in the same war. They made prizes of such ships when- 
ever their interests required it, and often cruelly murdered 
the captains. But what are we to think of the characteristic 
description given by Thucydides of the proceedings at 
Melos ? In that famous dialogue he makes the represen- 
tatives of Athens state the policy of force followed by their 
country in language of brutal plainness, without the least 
attempt at concealment or palliation. Some few readers 
have been simple enough to take for a faithful report of 
actual diplomatic negotiations what is really a profound 
disquisition on the law of nature, introduced by the author 
in connexion with this episode. Other critics, both ancient 
and modern, have supposed that Thucydides wished to 
pillory the lawless and reckless procedure of the contem- 
porary political leaders of Athens. We cannot accept this 
view, though it is supported by the authority of Grote. In 
these speeches the Athenian delegates scornfully reject 
prophecies and oracles, and treat the theological interpreta- 
tion of history with at best cool scepticism. This attitude, 
however, is one to which Thucydides was himself inclined ; 
how can he have intended to bring it into discredit ? 
Further, the delegates exhibit a great disdain for fine 
phrases and traditional tags (e.g. " We Athenians will use 


no fine words ; we will not go out of our way to prove at 
length that we have a right to rule, because we overthrew 
the Persians " *). This blunt political realism ought surely 
to be taken as an expression of Thucydides's own opinions 
rather than as the target of his satire. He certainly cannot 
have meant to imply that the Athenians would really have 
done better if they had adorned their case with the flowers 
of rhetoric, or had veiled what was in truth a question of 
might by hypocritical allegations of legal claims. Our 
impression is that the historian has here allowed himself 
to be guided by his zeal for truth, his honest hatred of 
cant, and his keen political insight ; that he has endeavoured 
to go straight to the heart of the matter, and show with 
unadorned plainness that the essential and decisive factors 
in international relations are the interests and the com- 
parative strength of states. This view, that his purpose 
was scientific rather than controversial, is supported by 
the cool, unemotional tone in which he records the final 

This coolness of tone is a personal characteristic of the 
historian, with his pride of intellect and his sometimes 
violent repression of every ordinary feeling of humanity, 
and is not shared by him with the Athenian people. This 
latter may be compared to a man of not ungenerous 
though highly irascible temper. The Athenians were very 
ready to listen to the suggestions of passion, but their real 
humanity of disposition is shown by the fact that, even 
when their fury was aroused, or when their vital interests 
were at stake, they were not obstinately deaf to the voice 
of repentance and forgiveness. In the same year in which 
the Spartans vented their rage on the unfortunate Platseans, 
a similar bloodthirsty sentence was passed by the Athenians 
on the inhabitants of Mitylene in Lesbos, a city which had 
broken faith with the confederation. It was resolved that 
all capable of bearing arms should be put to death, and 
that the women and children should be sold into slavery. 
But a wholesome revulsion of feeling soon followed. The 
horrible decree was rescinded by a fresh vote of the people, 

* Thuc., v. 89, trans. Jowett. 


and a crew of fast oarsmen despatched to carry the happy 
tidings to its destination with all the speed at their com- 
mand. That even the mitigated sentence was excessive, 
judging by modern standards more than a thousand of 
the most guilty among the rebels were still marked out for 
the death-penalty is an admission which it is sad to have 

to make, but one which does not alter the fact that amonsr 


the Greeks none but the Athenians showed themselves 
capable of any such revulsion of feeling. On the other 
hand, they were incapable of the cruel deceit of the Spar- 
tans, who inveigled two thousand of the most honourable 
and ambitious of their Helots into a trap, under the pretext 
of offering them freedom. 

But however often the noble heart of the Athenian 
people might obey a generous impulse, it was not by such 
impulses that its policy was determined, but by the well 
or ill understood interest of the state. It was an example 
of Athenian generosity when, at the end of the civil dis- 
order which marked the closing years of the fifth century, 
an all but general amnesty was granted to the oligarchical 
insurgents, and faithfully adhered to in spite of many 
incitements to the contrary. The humanity of the people 
was shown in the manifold provision made by law for the 
protection of the weak. Among the many enactments of 
this character we may note the assistance granted by the 
state to men who were unable to earn a livelihood, the 
right accorded to wives (or at least a particular class of 
them) of taking legal action against husbands who ill 
treated them, and the provision made for widows and 
orphans in particular the education at the expense of the 
state of the orphans of men who had fallen in battle. In 
the Homeric age no sadder lot was known than that of 
such orphans. Their food was the crumbs from the men's 
table, and their drink that " which wets the lips, but leaves 
the throat dry." Even the slave was not, at Athens, 
wholly destitute of legal protection. As a resource against 
gross ill treatment on his master's part, he might take 
refuge in the shrine of Theseus, where, in case his grievance 
proved to be well founded, he might demand to be sold to 


a new master. A similar procedure was allowed in various 
other Greek states. And even the inter-Hellenic policy of 
Athens was not entirely unaffected by altruistic motives. 
The defence of the weak is a favourite subject with the 
Attic orators and dramatists. Whenever the interests of 
the state were in harmony with this sentiment, it played 
a large part in the utterances of practical politicians. A 
charge of hypocrisy would be out of place here, as much 
as in the case of modern England, where a strong and 
genuine enthusiasm for the liberty of foreign peoples exists 
and lends vigour and warmth to a policy based on interest 
with which it may happen to agree ; although in other 
cases the interests of England seem to be invested with 
the dignity of an ethical principle. He who follows the 
varying phases of Athenian politics will not fail to notice 
that the appeal to law and morality becomes louder and 
more frequent in proportion as the power of the state 
suffers diminution. There is a kind of see-saw ; when one 
end is up, the other is down. What on one occasion is 
extolled as a sacred tradition, as a precious legacy from 
the men of old, is, in different circumstances, mocked at as 
a " weak-kneed humanitarian pose." 

He who, in the face of these and kindred phenomena, 
should doubt the possibility of moral progress in inter- 
national relations, would be under a mistake. Community 
of sentiment does not generally precede, but follow, com- 
munity of interest, Humanizing influences of all kinds 
may at times gain enormous strength, but they can never 
triumph over the self-preserving instinct of a nation or a 
political organism. Further, the prospects of progress in 
this direction were never brighter than at the present 
moment. No doubt it is easy to be led astray, on a super- 
ficial view of the case, by the spectacle of the great wars 
of the last generation. But, if we may be allowed the 
expression, they were, almost without exception, pacific 
wars. Their effect was to win, or to secure, internal peace 
for regions of vast extent. In Europe, two great states, 
with a combined population of eighty millions, have taken 
the place of politically divided nationalities ; and in America 


the giant Union has been saved from threatened disruption. 
These facts alone are elements of no mean consequence in 
the progress of the cause of peace, and further develop- 
ments tending in the same direction are not impossible. 
They are to be expected as results of that solidarity of 
interests affecting, perhaps not the entire world, but large 
combinations of states, which is bound to increase in pro- 
portion as a more perfect division of labour and facilitated 
means of intercourse create larger and larger spheres of 
common economic activity, and establish closer and closer 
relations between the more widely separated portions of 
the globe. More and more often will it be found that 
hostilities between a particular pair of states involve so 
much injury to one or more other states that the latter 
are compelled to prevent the conflict by a threat of inter- 
vention, and to insist on a peaceful solution of the question 
at issue. A threat of this kind might easily acquire a 
character of permanency ; moreover, the solution adopted 
would naturally be on lines dictated by considerations of 
the general welfare. We should thus attain the nearest 
approximation to the reign of international law and 
morality which appears compatible with the necessary 
division of humanity into a number of independent and 
autonomous states. 

But we must return to the much-subdivided Greece of 
bygone days, whose productive energies were perhaps all 
the greater because of its subdivision. Or rather, our 
subject will now be the intellectual capital of Greece, a 
part which, in virtue of its great and growing importance, 
we have already found tending to usurp in our exposition 
the place of the whole. But now that our story promises 
to linger by the banks of the Ilissus, and beneath the 
citadel-rock of the virgin-goddess, it is fitting that we 
should endeavour to give the reader some familiarity with 
the features of the land and its people, and to bring before 
his mind the peculiar characteristics of the ' school of 



I. THERE is one thing which even the gloomy doubter, 
Euripides, never called in question, and that is the 
grandeur of his native city. His tongue never wearies 
of praising the " violet-crowned, glorious ' Athens, the 
"sons of Erechtheus, sprung from the blessed gods." 
bathed in " dazzling ether," and the " holy land ' in which 
they lived. And now, after more than two thousand years, 
his song still wakes an echo. " How poor," we exclaim, 
" would mankind be now if Athens had never been ! ' Let 
us endeavour to give some modest account of the causes, 
or rather of some of the conditions, of that unexampled 
intellectual splendour whose seat this favoured spot of 
earth once was. 

Athens was the heiress of Miletus. There was, indeed, 
little rejoicing when she entered into possession. When 
the tragedian Phrynichus, the predecessor of ^Eschylus, 
put on the Athenian stage his " Capture of Miletus," in 
which he had dramatized the reconquest of that city by 
the Persians after the Ionian revolt (494), the rows of 
spectators were thrilled with such deep emotion that the 
reproduction of the piece was forbidden, and the author of 
the too effective play punished by a fine. And yet it was 
precisely the ruin of Ionia that made Athens the pre- 
dominant power in Greece, anJ the fall of Miletus that 
raised her to the position of intellectual capital. The 
scope of our inquiry is thus somewhat narrowed. We 
shall not attempt to prove that Athens must, in any case, 


have risen to the height she did. All we can hope to do 
is to explain how it was possible for her to climb to an 
eminence from which her rival had descended. 

All the circumstances which we have mentioned in the 
first volume (p. 4, seq.) as favourable to Greek civilization, 
were found in full indeed, in exceptional measure in 
Attica. This region, the most eastern of the Greek main- 
land, turns its back on the meagre civilizations of the 
North and West, and stretches out yearning arms, as it 
were, to the ancient culture of the East. Standing at its 
southern apex, say on the steps of the glistening temple 
of Athene at Cape Sunium, one sees the island of Ceos, 
the first link of an almost continuous chain stretching away 
towards the Asiatic coast. In Attica, again, the most 
diverse callings were followed, and the utmost variety of 
characters and aptitudes collected together within a small 
area. The agricultural inhabitants of the lowlands con- 
trasted with the pastoral folk of the hills and the sailors 
and fishermen of the long coast-line. These three groups 
of the population formed, in the sixth century, three 
distinct factions or parties in local politics, taking their 
names from the "Plain," the "Mountain," and the "Coast." 
The inhabitants of Attica considered themselves as auto- 
chthonous, that is, as being originally sprung from the soil. 
From this expression we are to conclude that they had 
been established in the district for long ages, and that the 
indigenous population had not been expelled or reduced 
to serfdom by foreign conquerors. The Doric migration, 
which swept over the other parts of Greece like a tidal 
wave, left Attica untouched ; and the continuously pro- 
gressive development which was thus rendered possible 
for the young commonwealth had as happy an influence 
on its after-history as a boyhood spent in quiet growth 
has upon the subsequent career of a man. Nor was there 
any lack of safeguards against the corresponding dangers 
of torpor and provincial stagnation. Perpetual border 
feuds kept the energies of the people in constant exercise, 
while the naturally unfertile soil of Attica both demanded 
and richly rewarded strenuous labour. Nor could they 


resist the peremptory invitation to be diligent in trade and 
navigation, in professions and industries, which was con- 
veyed to them by the voice of the restless sea beating upon 
their shores. The population belonged to the intellectually 
most active division of the Greek race the Ionic. But 
the Boeotians, on the north of the little territory, were of 
/Eolian, the Megarians, on the west, of Doric extraction. 
It was impossible that Attica should wholly escape the 
influence of such neighbourhood. Just as the Attic dialect 
formed a connecting link between the other varieties of 
Ionic speech on the one hand, and the Doric and ^Eolian 
idioms on the other, so, in point of architecture, dress, and 
education, Athenian culture has more than one feature in 
common with the non-Ionic, especially the Doric branches. 
Fragments of foreign nationalities, too, were not wanting, 
such as the Phoenicians in the neighbouring island of 
Salamis, and in Melite ; Thracians in Eleusis ; while one 
family of high repute traced its pedigree back to Carian 
ancestors ; and princely houses, such as that of the Nelidas 
or the ^Eacidae, who had been expelled from other parts 
of Greece, chose Athens for their home. It must be 
remembered that the city was famous in every age for its 
hospitality both to the men and the gods of other lands. 
Everything thus conspired to favour a many-sided develop- 
ment of the Athenian people, and to save them from dull 
uniformity of character. This harmonizes with the natural 
diversity of the landscape. To quote Ernst Curtius, " Half 
an hour's walk brings us from the shade of the olive-grove 
to the harbour, where we seem to have entered a totally 
different country." 

The lonians of Asia Minor were marked by a certain 
Oriental luxuriousness of temperament which was foreign 
to the Athenians. Nor did the latter at first display the 
same resolute spirit of enterprise, the same romantic passion 
for adventure, as their Asiatic kinsmen. We do not find 
the Athenians of the seventh and sixth centuries taking 
service under Egyptian kings, as did the Milesians, or 
penetrating to the oases of the Sahara like the Samians. 
Herewith is closely bound up much that proved of 


advantage to the little commonwealth, the astonishing 
continuity of whose development comes home to us with 
greater and greater force the more intimately we become 
acquainted with its history. This development was no 
doubt retarded by the severity of the class-struggle, but 
its character was not thereby altered. The primitive 
monarchy passed almost insensibly into the aristocratic 
system of government which succeeded it, and this 
stage was followed by an equally progressive enlarge- 
ment of the area of political rights, leading, by a 
series of easy transitions, in which scarcely a step was 
omitted, to the ultimate triumph of the democracy. And, 
even then, the old patrician families retained their social 
consideration long after their political privileges had 
become extinct. Among the many beneficial effects of 
this gradual development there is one which deserves 
special mention. In the best ages of Athenian history 
there was no feverish race for wealth, and therefore no 
plutocracy. One advantage of hereditary monarchy is that 
it protects the supreme position in the state from the 
intrigues of ambitious place-hunters. An hereditary 
aristocracy sometimes renders a similar service to a com- 
munity by barring the highest social status to the sordid 
competition of greedy money-hunters. A healthier-toned 
tradition is thus rendered possible, inequalities between 
man and man are robbed of their sting, and some guarantee 
is afforded against depreciation of the higher moral and 
intellectual interests of society. 

2. The phenomenon with which we are now mainly 
concerned, the intellectual greatness of Athens, is one 
which it is not possible to trace to its ultimate causes. 
Instead of indulging in empty hypotheses, we prefer 
to adduce a few facts which may conceivably have 
favoured that blaze of splendour. For this purpose we 
must go back a little. At Miletus, science was originally 
the handmaid of utility. The navigation which centred 
in the great emporium necessitated the development of 
astronomical and mathematical knowledge, and on this 
trunk the scion of cosmological speculation was afterwards 


grafted. At Athens, on the other hand, art had taken firm 
root long before the first beginnings of scientific research. 
Many circumstances combined to foster the growth of art 
in connexion with handicrafts. The meagre yield of the 
soil required supplementing by the earnings of industry, 
and for this very reason Pisistratus and Solon encouraged 
the introduction of foreign craftsmen. Lastly, the locality 
furnished an abundant supply of the raw materials of art. 
The designer and painter of vases found the finest pottery- 
earth ready to his hand, and rich marble-quarries were at 
the disposal of the sculptor and the architect. The ancients 
held firmly, and no doubt rightly, that where the light is 
intensest and the atmosphere purest, there the senses attain 
their highest degree of keenness and refinement. Another 
feature of the Attic climate which once was the subject of 
enthusiastic praise, has now undergone a change for the 
worse. That extent and variety of vegetation which 
prompted the boast of Aristophanes that in his country 
" all fruits and all herbs throve " at all times, almost 
obliterating the difference between the seasons, does not 
now exist in the same measure. For the destruction of 
the forests has brought in its train a surprising decrease in 
the rainfall, and a corresponding aggravation of the plague 
of dust. But in another respect, Attica is still a highly 
favoured region. There are not two days in the year 
during which the sun remains invisible, and brilliant 
summer weather prevails for nearly half the year. Ernst 
Curtius tells us that the "produce of this soil is to-day 
more delicate, finer, and more aromatic," and "that the 
fruits of Attic orchards and gardens have a better flavour 
than those of other lands;" further, that "no hills in Greece 
yield more fragrant herbs than Hymettus, the bee-pasture 
of ancient renown." Did the same natural influences pro- 
duce a corresponding refinement in the human race ? We 
cannot tell. So much is certain, that the shrewdness of the 
Athenians, the contrast which the clarity of their intellect 
presented to all "foolish simplicity," the general mental 
superiority which distinguished them from other Greeks as 
Greeks were distinguished from barbarians, were universally 


acknowledged facts, and were mentioned by Herodotus as 
being such even in his day. 

Science and Art are twin sisters, in spite of their 
occasional estrangements. Both are to a large measure 
founded on the gift of exact observation. This, for its 
part, has its root in exceptional delicacy of the senses. 
Where we receive one impression, as is remarked by a 
profound French thinker to whom we are indebted for 
many of the following thoughts, the Greek received twenty, 
each one of which set in lively vibration a sympathetic 
chord of emotion. To this cause we may also attribute 
that sense of measure, that abhorrence of all extravagance, 
that economic use of the means of expression, which dis- 
tinguished the art, as well as the life and ideals of the 
Greeks. Here also, since the sharply defined and at the 
same time emotionally accentuated impression is always 
the most permanent, we have the source of the increased 
capacity of the Greek for faithfully reproducing past im- 
pressions, whether received simultaneously or in succession, 
whether it was the chisel or the pencil that sought to give 
them final embodiment in form and colour, or whether it 
was the artist in language who endeavoured to revive them 
by the aid of sounds, words, and phrases, by the rhythm of 
oratory or of verse. The numerous picturesque passages 
of the Homeric poems, especially the " Iliad," the graphic 
delineations of diseases left us by the physicians of the 
Hippocratic school, the masterpieces of sculpture, and 
the wonderfully vivid word-paintings of the historians 
Herodotus and Thucydides, may all be regarded as off- 
shoots of a single parent stem. Even in those branches 
of art in which there is no attempt at imitation in music, 
for example, and architecture the peculiar susceptibility of 
the Greeks to all kinds of sense-impression manifests itself 
at every turn. Their musical scale was not limited to tones 
and semi-tones like ours, but possessed quarter-tones as 
well. Their architecture exhibits a minute differentiation 
of parts which extends to the smallest details ; thus in the 
fluted columns of the Parthenon each single groove is cut 
nore deeply towards its extremities than in the middle of 


its length. For the Greeks, with their exceptionally keen 
and active senses, employed in the execution of their works 
of creative genius many artifices which easily elude our 
duller perceptions, and only reveal themselves as the 
reward of the most painstaking and careful analysis. The 
architecture, whether of a material fabric like the Parthenon, 
or of a fabric built of words and rhythms such as any 
choral ode in a Greek play, requires for its understanding 
a minute dissection which is often beyond the unaided 
powers of eye or ear. For all the excellences which 
distinguished the Greek race belong in a special measure 
to the lonians, and above all the Athenians. 

The common root of artistic and scientific excellence 
now lies bare before us. It is not difficult to trace the two- 
fold course of development, which is in essence but a single 
one, leading from the lower to the higher stages of both. 
On the artistic side we see that the conditions of success 
are distinct separation of parts, lucid arrangement of the 
whole, strict correspondence of form to matter, of organ to 
function. On the intellectual side the prime requisites are 
distinctness of mental vision, systematic arrangement of 
subject-matter, sharply defined logical division. For where 
individual perceptions are marked by great clearness and 
definiteness, it is impossible that a desire should not be 
awakened to preserve the syntheses of sense, as well as 
their mental copies, from becoming clouded or confused. 
There can be no comfort or joy in the acquisition of a 
vast stock of mental furniture, unless it be carefully and 
competently arranged and classified. We have here the 
source of one of the two main streams of scientific thought, 
the analytic method. It seems more difficult to trace the 
origin of the other stream, the deductive method, that is, 
to establish a connexion between that impulse towards 
the highest achievements of science which first appeared 
among the lonians, and the other manifestations of Ionian 
character. For the gay holiday temperament of the Ionian, 
with his delight in colour and brilliance, his contented 
enjoyment of all that stimulates and satisfies eye or ear, 
seems to be separated by a wide gulf from all striving 


after scientific rigour, all pursuit of cold and colourless 
abstractions, such as the " infinite " of Anaximancler. But 
the contradiction is only apparent. Abstraction has its 
origin in a craving for simplicity and universality which is 
really a craving for relief. If the mind is not to be over- 
burdened by the multiplicity of images, they must be 
referred to the fewest and the simplest possible concepts. 
Only thus can the manifold detail of treasured impressions 
be temporarily dismissed from consciousness with no im- 
pairment of the sense of possession, and with full confidence 
in the power of ready reproduction. Thus the act of 
abstraction, by easing the mind of its load, imparts to it 
a feeling of lightness and freedom. In spite of the 
plausibility of the contrary view, the spirit of the deductive 
method is in its origin closely akin to sensuous delight in 
the richness and variety of external objects. It must be 
conceded that the evolution of the different branches of 
science brings about a separation between the two, and 
that it was the Doric, not the Ionic, race that most success- 
fully studied the abstractions of number and measure. 
The two tendencies we have described unite in producing 
what we may call the systematic intellect, by which we 
mean that type of intellect which is never content with 
isolated facts as such, and refuses to accept or register 
them except as parts of a well-ordered, well-articulated 
structure, or o-uo-nj/ua. Herein we may see at once the 
great strength and the great weakness of Greek thought, 
the source both of the most brilliant triumphs of research 
and of not a few hasty and erroneous generalizations. The 
inquiring mind easily becomes entangled in the meshes 
of the net in which it seeks to imprison the multitude of 
facts. And here we may refer to the history of that twin 
sister to Science Art whose arrested development is held 
by the best judges to be in part due to the influence of 
system, to the love of rules, to the premature imposition 
of rigid canons. We are now, however, concerned, not with 
the shadow but with the blaze of light by which it was cast. 
Let us follow the tendency we are considering to another of 
its results. Mastery over the subject-matter of knowledge, 


theory, was associated with the endeavour to bring the world 
of practice in its turn into subjection to supreme, all-em- 
bracing principles. We shall soon have before us the man 
who strove for the attainment of this aim with all the fervour 
of an intense enthusiasm. 

3. Hitherto we have spoken of the lonians and of the 
Athenians as if they were aggregates of uniformly endowed 
and similarly constituted humanity. This procedure is a 
necessity wherever it is attempted to bring out the common 
element in racial or national character, but it is apt, and 
nowhere more so than in the present instance, to suggest 
false conclusions. For variety of individual development 
is perhaps the most distinctive feature of Athenian culture. 
Hence the originality, the wealth of versatile genius, by 
which the age of Athenian splendour was characterized. 
Never since those days has there been so complete a 
fulfilment of the conditions laid down by Wilhelm von 
Humboldt, and after him by John Stuart Mill. Nowhere 
else have that " freedom " and that " variety of situations " 
of which " individual vigour ' and " manifold diversity of 
character " are the outcome, been presented in the same 
ample measure. It was early recognized to what extent 
Athenian greatness was promoted by the reconquest and 
the progressive development of political liberty. 

" Not in one instance only, but everywhere alike, equality of 
rights proves how excellent a thing it is. Do we not see that the 
Athenians, so long as they were subject to the rule of tyrants, were 
not superior in war to any of their neighbours ? But once they had 
rid themselves of that rule, they took by far the foremost position." 

This dictum of Herodotus * may perhaps be chargeable 
with exaggeration in regard to the political power of Athens, 
which certainly gained something from the shrewd states- 
manship of Pisistratus, but in the sphere of intellectual 
evolution it is nothing but the exact truth. 

Current terms, such as " liberty " or " democracy," give 
us but an imperfect picture of the workings of the Athenian 
constitution. What was most essential and vital in it was 

V. 78. 


not the assembling of the entire male population at the 
Pnyx, to pass by a majority of votes resolutions by which 
the state was governed. A more important feature, one 
which had existed long before the rise of democracy, was 
the extraordinarily minute articulation of the body politic, 
by which we are reminded of the marvellously delicate 
organisms revealed to us by the microscope. From the 
family as smallest unit, to the largest, the state, there 
extended a widening series of associations, circle after 
circle. The " household," the " clan," the " brotherhood," 
the "tribe," each of these corporations united its members in 
common labour, common worship, common festival ; every- 
where was joyous co-operation and strenuous rivalry rivalry 
that blessed the whole by promoting the well-being of the 
parts. The reform of Clisthenes did not materially change 
the situation. By a singularly ingenious artifice he partially 
replaced the ties of kinship by the ties of neighbourhood, 
superposing the " tribe " on the " township," and thereby 
effecting a happy fusion of two conflicting principles by a 
compromise which went far to obviate the drawbacks and 
emphasize the advantages of both. The unitary principle 
which thus triumphed at once over local separatism and 
the exclusive caste system of the noble and patrician 
families, was far from being a hard and rigid scheme of 
centralization, tending to absorb in itself all the vitality 
of the smaller divisions. It was the exact opposite of this. 
The community was now more richly organized than ever. 
Vigorous, pulsating life, adequate on the emotional as well 
as on the practical side, permeated every part of the social 
organism. Community of worship and community of 
interests held together in the bonds of union the members 
both of the greater and of the lesser corporations. The 
co-proprietorship of shrines, of burial-places, of land, 
libraries, and so forth, brought men into close contact with 
each other, and diffused among them that wholesome 
warmth of kindly feeling, akin to family affection, which 
the lonians in general and the Athenians in particular 
deemed a necessary element in public as well as in private 
life. But, the reader will exclaim in surprise, where in all 


this is the individual, his freedom, his independent develop- 
ment ? Are not all these associations so many checks and 
hindrances, so many means of restricting and curtailing 
individual life in the interest of the community ? The 
aptest answer to this question is supplied by a comparison 
of Athens with Sparta. In the latter city the unremitting 
tension of military organization stunted, if it did not 
destroy, the associations based on ties of kinship. Even 
family life, in the narrow sense, lost the greater part of its 
significance. The state took over the whole responsibility 
of the education of the boys. The home of the youth, 
even of the young husband, was the barracks. Even men 
of mature years took their meals, not in the family circle, 
but in the Syssition, that is, a kind of camp-fellowship or 
mess, kept up even in time of peace. The organization 
of the community was almost entirely on military lines. 
Associations intermediate between the state and the 
individual were either lacking or had become mere ex- 
pedients of mechanical subdivision. And what were the 
consequences ? The citizen, trained to no efficiency except 
such as served state purposes, animated by a supreme but 
exclusive devotion to his country, exhibited a minimum of 
individual character, perhaps less than a minimum of active 
interest in science and art. At Athens we find the exact 
opposite of this. The difference justifies us in saying that 
all these intermediate associations were so many protective 
integuments within which individual character, diversity, 
and originality were enabled to grow and thrive. It is 
superfluous to add that the permanent existence and the 
wholesome operation of political liberty depend upon its 
being supported by a broadening series of self-governing 
units, without which foundation freedom must either decay 
or degenerate into a tyranny of the majority, beneath which 
individual liberty is crushed. 

From all such tyranny of the majority Athens was 
remarkably exempt. That this was a priceless blessing 
and one of the chief causes of Athenian greatness, is no 
modern discovery. It was recognized by Thucydides, and 
by Pericles too, if we may believe the main thoughts of 



the funeral oration to be really those of the statesman, and 
not merely put in his mouth by the historian. 

The terse, pregnant sentences of this memorable speech 
contain a panegyric of the Athenian political system, as a 
system which leaves unused no force capable of serving 
the common welfare, which, in this respect at least, admits 
no privilege of class, and is prompt to recognize and reward 
all merit, without regard to riches or rank. And the same 
liberal spirit animates men's judgments on each other in 
private matters. No one is offended with his neighbour 
for ordering his life as seems best to him, or seeks to 
embitter his existence by sour glances and all the petty 
persecutions of intolerance. Life with them is bright and 
joyous, free from all the vexation that comes of a fretful 

" We are lovers of the beautiful, yet simple in our tastes, and 
we cultivate the mind without loss of manliness. Wealth we 
employ, not for talk and ostentation, but when there is a real 
use for it. To avow poverty with us is no disgrace ; the true 
disgrace is in doing nothing to avoid it. An Athenian citizen 
does not neglect the state because he takes care of his own 
household ; and even those of us who are engaged in business 
have a very fair idea of politics. We alone regard a man who 
takes no interest in public affairs, not as a harmless, but as a 
useless member of society." 

Finally, it is pointed out that " Athens is the school of 
Hellas, and the individual Athenian in his own person 
seems to have the power of adapting himself to the most 
varied forms of action with the utmost versatility and 
grace," * instead of being content to remain a mere 
fraction of a man. 

Who can doubt that the society thus described by 
Pericles was a soil admirably fitted for the growth of 
genius and originality ? The less we are burdened and 
cramped by the rigid fetters of precise conventionalism, 
and the more we are accustomed, within the limits of a 
due regard to others' welfare and our own soul's health, to 

* Time., ii. 40, 41, trans. Jowett. 


listen to the voice and follow the impulses of our own 
nature instead of slavishly aping a set copy, the better 
prospect shall we have of living out our lives in happy 
activity, of preserving uncorrupted and developing to its 
full stature any germ of talent that may lie dormant within 
our bosoms. The spontaneous play of thought and emotion, 
the free swift current of ideas, not checked or interrupted 
by any rift within the soul, will then bear us on to the 
greatest we have it in us to achieve. This, no doubt, is 
applicable chiefly to those who are engaged in the work of 
scientific or artistic production. But the number of those 
who are thus occupied must of necessity be largest where 
all aptitudes are not forced into one and the same political 
or social mould, and thereby partly deformed, partly 
stunted. And where many rich and highly developed 
individualities, of more than average endowments, stand 
out from the mass, it will be hard if more new sources of 
beauty are not detected, and more new modes of producing 
it invented, above all, if more new truths are not discovered, 
there than elsewhere. One pair of eyes sees less than many. 
And this is more especially true when the many eyes are 
of many types, when their several excellences and defects 
compensate each other, when the point of clearest vision is 
for some the immediate foreground, for others the distant 
horizon, while others again are best adapted for the greatest 
possible number of intermediate ranges. 

4. We have mentioned some of the internal causes 
which favoured the intellectual productivity of the little land 
and people no larger than Luxemburg or Vorarlberg 
but external causes were not wanting which contributed 
their share towards the same wonderful result. One con- 
sequence of the triumphant issue of the Persian war was 
that a considerable accession of material wealth fell to the 
lot of Athens, now the mistress of the seas and the heiress 
of those Ionian centres of commerce and industry which 
had been severed from their hinterland. Athens thus 
became the capital of a confederation, or rather empire, 
which embraced the whole eastern half of the Greek world. 
Whatever talent or intellect was to be found among the 


confederate, or subject, states, flowed in a mighty stream 
to the great metropolis. And thus the character of the 
Athenians themselves underwent a remarkable chancre. 


The primitive, easy-going humour of early Athens had 
now disappeared to the last trace, in consequence, partly 
of increased power, partly of closer contact with the lonians 
of Asia Minor, and had been replaced by that vaulting 
ambition and enterprising audacity, that joyous and hopeful 
energy, which had once been distinctive of Miletus, and 
now found a home in the new capital. Athens became 
more Ionian than it had formerly been. Alas ! the evil 
genius of Ionia was not long idle. Powers strung to their 
highest tension were soon overwrought ; the height of 
splendour was soon followed by the beginnings of decay. 
Two causes combined to produce this effect. On the one 
hand, there was the passionate thirst of power, which 
thought no aim too high, which regarded all past success 
as nothing so long as anything still remained unachieved, 
which, in the words of Thucydides, " saw in every omitted 
undertaking an advantage lost," and but seldom took the 
chances of failure into serious account. On the other hand, 
there was the peculiar character of the Athenian political 
organization, which was far better adapted to develop the 
powers of a moderate-sized community than to restrain a 
mighty state to the paths of peace and security. If we 
may speak of political institutions as a kind of machinery 
whose component parts are groups of humanity, and in the 
last resort, individual men, the excellence of the Athenian 
constitutional apparatus lay chiefly in the action and 
reaction between the whole and the parts, rather than in 
its total efficiency for the task it was intended to perform. 
In particular, those institutions were quite incapable of 
conducting a foreign policy conceived on the grand scale 
a task to which, judging from all hitherto recorded 
experience, it is chiefly monarchies and aristocracies that 
have shown themselves equal ; democracies only when a 
rare stroke of luck has placed at their head a Cromwell 
or a Pericles, and when, to use again the language of 
Thucydides, "only the name of democracy remains; in 


reality a single man is supreme." But we, to whom the 
political destinies of Athens are a matter of secondary 
interest, may be permitted to linger over the age of 
splendour and the brilliant achievements of its sons, un- 
troubled by the gathering clouds. We turn to the study 
of one of the greatest personalities of that day the 
intellectual ancestor of an illustrious line of offspring. 




I. ALL centuries have produced their quota of strong, clear, 
cool heads ; and there has rarely been any lack of warm 
hearts. But the two are rarely combined, and the rarest 
phenomenon of all is a heart of mighty power working with 
all its force to keep the head above it cool, as a steam- 
engine may give motion to a refrigerating machine. Such 
a combination occurs but once in a millennium on any large 
scale. But when it does occur, it exerts, as if to compen- 
sate for its rarity, an influence which persists unexhausted 
for a long train of centuries. The rarity of this pheno- 
menon is due to a fundamental peculiarity of human 
nature. All enthusiasm, as such, tends rather to obscurity 
than to clearness of mental vision. The same, indeed, is 
the effect of emotion in general. Every emotion attracts 
those ideas and images which nourish it, and repels those 
which do not. To perceive and judge of facts with an open 
unbiassed mind is impossible except where impartiality, that 
is, freedom from emotion, has first paved the way. Ben- 
jamin Franklin has been called an " enthusiast of sobriety." 
The term is applicable in far higher measure to Socrates. 
The passion which dominated his powerful personality, the 
cause for which he was eager to suffer martyrdom, was the 
attainment of intellectual clearness. He thirsted for pure 
concepts as ardently as any mystic ever panted for union 
with the Godhead. The impulse he gave called into exist- 
ence numerous schools, or rather sects, of moral philo- 
sophers, in which myriads of educated men have found a 


substitute for decaying popular religions. To take the 
true measure of this prodigious historical phenomenon is 
one of the most important tasks with which this work is 

Socrates was the son of the sculptor Sophroniscus, and 
was born at Athens in the year 469 B.C., or a little earlier. 
In his youth he learnt his father's craft, and down to a late 
antiquity a group representing the Graces was exhibited 
on the Acropolis as his work. Possibly this may be 
identical with a relief executed in the style of that period, 
which has been found in that situation. However that may 
be, Socrates soon renounced art in order to devote the re- 
mainder of his life exclusively to speculation. He neglected 
his household, and this doubtless contributed to make his 
marriage with Xanthippe, by whom he had three sons, 
anything but a source of happiness. He is said to have 
been won for philosophy by a disciple of Anaxagoras, 
Archelaus, whose acquaintance the reader has already 
made (cf. Vol. I. pp. 377, 402), with whom he lived for a 
time in Samos, on terms of intimate friendship. The 
authority for this statement is contained in the " Pilgrim- 
age " of the tragedian Ion of Chios a trustworthy and 
disinterested witness, whose testimony we have no serious 
ground for calling in question. Besides, we know that the 
conception of end or purpose, which played so important a 
part in the thought of Socrates, dominated the system of 
Anaxagoras more than that of any of the other nature- 
philosophers, while, among the Anaxagoreans, it was pre- 
cisely Archelaus who to the investigation of nature added 
some study of the problems of human life. He was thus 
the very teacher to awaken the speculative impulse in the 
man who was destined, as Cicero says, to bring philosophy 
down from heaven to earth, that is, to substitute man for 
the universe as a subject of inquiry. Something like a 
vicious circle may surely be laid to the charge of those 
critics who first reject contemporary evidence, which not 
even Theophrastus impugns, and then brush away quite 
independent testimony to the ethical investigations of 
Archelaus with the remark that a philosopher without 


ethics was inconceivable as a teacher of Socrates. No 
doubt the Anaxagorean did no more than drop a spark 
into the soul of Socrates ; the store of fuel which was 
thereby kindled was not the gift of any master. The 
originality of his intellect is evinced both by the inex- 
haustible fulness of thought by which he was distinguished, 
and by a number of anecdotes which hinge upon his 
absent-mindedness, or rather his extraordinary concentra- 
tion we might almost say his absolute possession by the 
problem momentarily occupying his mind. 

" One morning he was thinking about something which he could 
not resolve ; he would not give it up, but continued thinking from 
early dawn until noon there he stood fixed in thought ; and at 
noon attention was drawn to him, and the rumour ran through the 
wondering crowd that Socrates had been standing and thinking 
about something ever since the break of day. At 'last, in the 
evening after supper, some lonians, out of curiosity (I should 
explain that this was not in winter, but in summer), brought out 
their mats and slept in the open air, that they might watch him 
and see whether he would stand all night. There he stood all 
night until the following morning ; and with the return of light he 
offered up a prayer to the sun, and went his way." 

This is the account given by Alcibiades, Socrates' com- 
rade in arms during that campaign, in the " Symposium " of 
Plato. We are reminded of Newton, who, late one morning, 
was found sitting half-dressed on his bed, sunk in medita- 
tion ; and on another occasion remained for a long time in 
his cellar, where a train of thought had taken possession of 
him while in the act of fetching a bottle of wine for his 

His fearlessness in battle, his indifference (Aristotle 
called it magnanimity) towards all externals, his extra- 
ordinary endurance of heat and cold, of hunger and thirst, 
his ability to exceed all his companions in drinking without 
injury to his powers of thought, all these are traits which 
are either described by Alcibiades in the " Symposium," or 
are made to appear in the action of the dialogue itself. 

* Plato, " Symposium," 220, trans. Jowett, 


That a powerful nature like this must have been originally 
endowed with a host of strong impulses, and could only 
have attained serenity of soul by a process of self-educa- 
tion, is so probable in itself that we cannot refuse credence 
to the ancient traditions which point that way. The Syrian 
soothsayer and physiognomist, Zopyrus, as reported in the 
dialogue bearing his name and written by Phaedo of Elis, 
a favourite disciple of the master, saw in the countenance 
of Socrates the imprint of strong sensuality. Loud protests 
were raised by the assembled disciples, but Socrates silenced 
them with the remark, " Zopyrus is not mistaken ; however, 
I have conquered those desires." Insufficiently attested, 
but not in itself improbable, considering the fiery tempera- 
ment of the man, is the statement that he was subject to 
occasional outbursts of violent rage. Such outbursts cannot 
have been frequent, for nothing is better established than 
the masterful dominion which the powerful will was wont 
to exercise over every emotion. Self-command, indeed, 
was an indispensable qualification for the calling of his 
choice. For the great business of his life was conversation. 
His was a familiar figure by the tables of the money- 
changers in the market-place, or under the avenues adjoin- 
ing the gymnasia. In such resorts he would enter into 
conversation with youths or mature men, as the case might 
be, and, seizing on some trivial occasion, would pass by 
easy, unconstrained transitions to the discussion of the 
deepest problems. These discourses became the pattern 
of a great branch of literature the Socratic dialogue 
which was cultivated by his disciples, and left as a legacy 
to nearly all later schools of philosophy. If, however, the 
great conversational artist was not to be avoided but sought 
for, it was indispensable that he should not allow his inter- 
locutors to feel too keenly their intellectual inferiority. 
This was rendered all the easier by the fact that he had 
chosen a field of inquiry which was more like an undis- 
covered country than a well-explored region. The strictly 
scientific investigation of human affairs was, at that time, 
as good as an absolute novelty, and it was not without 
justice that Socrates maintained to the end that he was 



a humble and modest searcher for truth, not the proud 
possessor of exhaustive knowledge. And he took con- 
siderable pains to strengthen this impression. " Irony " is 
the Greek name for the love of hoaxing, and in particular 
for that sly profession of modesty, which is best called self- 
depreciation, and which is the exact opposite of dXa^ovua, 
or boastful bombast. It harmonized excellently with the 
refinement of the Attic intellect, and the prevailing forms 
of social intercourse, carefully purged as they were of all 
that was crude or clownish, and it was in a particular 
measure distinctive of Socrates. The cultivation by him 
of this natural tendency as a powerful dialectic weapon, 
the favouring circumstance, already mentioned, of his 
having chosen a practically untrodden field of research, all 
combined to produce the well-known Socratic irony, which 
it would be equally incorrect to regard as a mere mask or 
as a purely natural characteristic. As those whom Socrates 
drew into conversation were often men of considerable 
amour-propre, and as the discussion often ended, to their 
great discomfiture, in proving their entire lack of the clear 
ideas and exact knowledge they confidently believed them- 
selves to possess, no amount of " irony ' or considerate 
handling could prevent these colloquies from leaving 
behind them a bitter taste and an unpleasant memory. 
It was, indeed, Socrates' foremost aim to bring home to 
himself and others the fact that the most important 
questions affecting human life were as yet unsolved 
riddles, that words and ideas which every one had 
been accustomed from the days of childhood upwards to 
bandy about with thoughtless confidence, were in truth 
thickly beset with contradictions and ambiguities. Personal 
humiliation, too, was not the only disagreeable impression 
which was carried away by the participants in these 
dialogues. A man who raises questions relating to what 
has hitherto been matter of unquestioning agreement, 
may easily, in spite of all professions of modesty, pass for 
a conceited crank and know-all. And he who touches on 
fundamental problems, such as, " What is justice ? " " What 
is piety ? " " What is the best form of government ? " is 
VOL. II, 3 


likely to incur worse suspicion still, and be taken for a 
disturber of social peace, a dangerous agitator and revolu- 
tionary. It is hard for any one to meddle with the 
foundations of the social edifice and escape the accusation 
of designing its overthrow. We must remember, too, how 
greatly such impressions would be strengthened by the 
slender means of Socrates and his lack of any regular 
calling, and we shall find it astonishing that his person and 
his work remained unassailed so long. Not only did he 
continue for several decades, without serious opposition, 
though in the full blaze of publicity, a species of activity 
which was without precedent or parallel, he succeeded in 
gathering round him some of the most gifted and some of 
the most illustrious youths of Athens, such as Alcibiades, 
Critias, and, the relations of the latter, Plato and Charmides. 
The "beggarly prater," as the comedians called him, even 
found entrance to the circle presided over by Pericles, then 
at the head of the state. We can judge from these facts 
how great a value was set in Athens on intellect and genius, 
how small a footing pretentious formalism and narrow- 
minded conventionality had in the best Athenian society. 
But the average Athenian, to say nothing of those who had 
personal grievances against Socrates, must have looked 
with very different eyes on the strange being, of whom the 
great multitude knew nothing more than that he was ever 
uttering insidious speech, in which he spared nothing that 
was high or holy ; that he feared no authority, not even the 
sovereign Demos, whom all others flattered ; and that he 
was to be seen walking about with proud mien and steady 
gaze, morning and evening, clad in uncouth dress, wearing 
the same threadbare garments winter and summer, "bare- 
foot, as if to spite the shoemakers." The ordinary respect- 
able citizen could hardly see in him anything but an idle 
lounger and a blasphemous quibbler. And this judgment 
was echoed by the comic poets, who brought on the stage 
the well-known figure with the Silenus face and the bizarre 
manners to be, along with the "mad Apollodorus," or the 
lean " half-starved, boxwood-coloured Chaerephon," the butt 
of their unending ridicule. 


2. There was very little opportunity for correcting this 
verdict. Socrates' fame as a man of courage in battle could 
hardly have spread beyond the narrow circle of his comrades 
in arms, for he never held a command. Nor did he play 
any part in the civil broils which disturbed Athens towards 
the end of the century. Possibly the Thirty Tyrants may 
in the first instance have taken him for an adherent to their 
cause on the strength of his personal relations to their chief, 
Critias. Only on some such hypothesis can we explain his 
having been appointed to command a party of four sent 
to arrest an opponent of the oligarchs, Leon of Salamis. 
Socrates, however, refused his co-operation ; with whatever 
freedom he might criticize the real or supposed faults of 
the democracy, he was by no means willing to lend his aid 
to the oligarchical rule of terror. But the episode was too 
trivial to win him the favour of the people, even supposing 
it had been more widely known. Once only was Socrates 
involved in a political incident of any importance, and on 
that occasion his action led to no permanent result. 

In August, 406, the Athenians had gained a brilliant 
naval victory near the two islands known as the Arginusae, 
between Lesbos and the coast of Asia Minor. Their 
triumph, however, was embittered by a most painful 
incident. The commanders failed to save the crews of a 
number of seriously damaged vessels, and to recover the 
bodies of the dead. Whether the generals were really to 
blame or not is more than we can tell. A circumstance 
not in their favour is the contradictory nature of their reply 
to the charges brought against them. In the first instance, 
this reply was to the effect that a storm following im- 
mediately upon the battle had prevented the rescue of the 
crews ; subsequently, however, they accused two officers, 
who had been charged with the task of rescue, of neglect of 
duty. When the subject was first raised in the assembly 
of the people, a calm and dispassionate hearing was given 
to the accused, and it was resolved to make further pro- 
ceedings depend on the preliminary decision of the com- 
petent authority, the council of five hundred. In the 
interval there occurred an event which led to lamentable 


consequences. There was a celebration of the Apaturia, a 
tribal festival of the lonians, at which the Athenian people 
was wont to assemble divided by "brotherhoods." On 
these occasions children who had been born in the course 
of the year were presented to the members of the brother- 
hood, and entered in the registers, schoolboys delighted 
their parents by public recitations of poetry, and so forth. 
Above all, solemn sacrifices were offered to the gods who 
presided over the different brotherhoods. It was a family 
festival, in the strictest sense of the word, comparable to 
our Christmas. Men counted up the number of their dear 
ones, and every gap which death had made in their ranks 
was felt with double poignancy. The popular indignation 
was roused to increased bitterness against the generals 
whose fault it was, or was supposed to be, that so many 
citizens had met their death, and that others had been 
deprived of those funeral rites which the religious feeling 
of the ancients prized so highly. As if in mockery of the 
joyous festival, the fathers and brothers of the victims went 
about in mourning garb and with shaven heads, thus in- 
flaming the passions of the multitude. Under these cir- 
cumstances proceedings were reopened in the council. A 
resolution proposed by Callixenus was adopted, according 
to which the judicial investigation of the case was to be 
dropped, and an assembly of the people was to decide the 
guilt or innocence of the generals by a secret vote, affecting 
the accused en bloc. A verdict of guilty was to be followed 
by the execution of the generals and the confiscation of 
their property. The assembly which was summoned to 
deal with the case was the stormiest, outside times of actual 
revolution, of which we have any record. Whether, and 
to what extent, the proposal of Callixenus was illegal, is a 
question on which the best authorities on Athenian con- 
stitutional law are still divided in opinion. In any case it 
ran counter to the spirit of the constitution, and objection 
was formally taken to it on that ground by Euryptolemus 
and his friends. Such action had the effect of suspending 
proceedings in respect of the impugned proposal until a 
judicial decision had been taken as to its alleged illegality. 


If the "allegation was sustained, the proposer and his 
associates were liable to penalties of great severity. Even 
at that moment, when the waves of passion ran so high, 
the assembled people did not simply override these consti- 
tutional forms. The assembly was divided in opinion. 
Some cried that "it was a shame that the people should 
be thwarted of its will ;" others, that " it was a shame if the 
people did not respect the laws of its own making." It 
would appear that the decisive impetus was given by the 
appearance of a man who had been on one of the twenty- 
five shipwrecked triremes, and had with great difficulty 
escaped to land on a meal-tub. He reported that the 
dying wish of his comrades had been that vengeance 
might be taken on the generals who had left * brave and 
victorious citizens in the lurch. Euryptolemus was in- 
duced, by the threat of including him in the accusation, to 
withdraw his objection. But all obstacles were not thereby 
removed. The proceedings of the assembly were regulated 
by a body of fifty men, the prytanes, consisting of the 
representatives of one of the ten tribes in the council of 
five hundred, and forming a species of standing com- 
mittee of that council for the tenth part of the year. In 
accordance with the regular rotation, the prytanes for the 
time being were the representatives of the tribe Antiochis, 
to which Socrates belonged. The majority of the com- 
mittee refused to put the proposal of Callixenus to the 
vote. This roused another storm of indignation, and the 
new obstacle was overcome by the same threat as before. 
Socrates alone, as his disciples Plato and Xenophon tell 
us, adhered inflexibly to his conscientious convictions. 

The proceedings now took their regular course. In- 
timidation had so far had the result of deciding the 
preliminary constitutional questions in the sense demanded 
by the dominant feeling of the multitude, but the assembly 
had not for all that degenerated into a riot. Euryptolemus, 
the advocate for the generals, did not ask for an acquittal, 
but merely that the prosecution should be conducted in 
legal form against each of the accused separately, in 
accordance with a custom which, though possibly not 


binding on the assembly, had the force of an established 
usage, and was supported by the " decree of Cannonus." 
Callixenus, on the other side, persisted in his original pro- 
posal. Both speeches were listened to in silence. The 
show of hands which followed gave a majority of votes to 
Euryptolemus. At least such was the report of the officials 
charged with the duty of counting. But this report was 
challenged, perhaps not without reason. The majority of 
the prytanes had only yielded to superior force, and it is 
possible that the enumeration may not have been made 
with absolute impartiality. A second show of hands was 
demanded, and this time the result was unfavourable to 
Euryptolemus. And now came the last, secret vote, and 
the urns were filled with the voting-counters which were to 
decide the lot of the accused. The verdict given was one 
of " guilty, ' which meant death for the six generals who 
were in Athens, and confiscation of property for the two 
who were absent. 

This episode was followed, as was usual in Athens, 
by a violent reaction. After the lapse of a few years an 
indictment was brought against the misleaders of the 
people, which drove them into exile, and in the end caused 
their leader Callixenus to commit suicide. Was the fruitless 
resistance of that odd creature called Socrates remembered 
at this juncture ? and was he held in higher esteem on that 
account ? He may have been, but it is not probable. For 
us, however, a twofold interest attaches to this political 
incident. It illustrates Socrates' strength of character, and 
it throws a side-light on the external circumstances of his 
life. If the Socratic school had not kept this episode in 
remembrance, and thought it worthy of record, we should 
never have known that their master had once been a 
member of the council, and had not disdained to take 
part in the lot-drawing that led to this office. That this 
was the only office he ever held, we have the express 
assurance of Plato. But the same motives which induced 
him to take part in this drawing of lots, must have guided 
his actions on other occasions as well. Probably he 
engaged more than once in the favourite occupation of old 


Athenians of the less wealthy class, and eked out the 
offerings of affection which he received from his friends 
with the modest pay of the heliast, or juror. In the law 
courts he would certainly find food for those studies of 
human nature in which he delighted. But he would obtain 
material for these studies chiefly from the discussions in 
which he was never weary of engaging, but which he no 
doubt valued primarily for the assistance he derived from 
them in thinking out his own problems. It is now time to 
give some account of the form, the matter, and the results 
of the investigations thus conducted. 

3. 'Two things may be ascribed to Socrates," so we 
are informed by his intellectual grandchild, Aristotle, 
" inductive reasoning and the fixing of general concepts." 
The inductive reasoning, we may add, was auxiliary to the 
formation of the concepts. The word " induction "' is here 
used in a sense somewhat different from that which it now 
bears. We understand by it that intellectual operation 
which elicits from a number of particular cases a general 
rule affecting a whole class of facts. By the way of in- 
duction we ascertain uniformities of coexistence and of 
succession, whether these be ultimate or merely derivative 
laws. Thus it is a correct induction which teaches us 
that all men are mortal ; an incorrect one, because only 
approximately complete, which affirms that in the whole 
class of mammals there are none that lay eggs, but that 
all bring their young into the world alive. Socratic in- 
duction, like ours, proceeds by the comparison of individual 
instances ; but its goal is the attainment of a norm, 
valid, not for nature, but for ideas. Its chief aim is the 
determination of concepts, that is, definition. The pro- 
cedure employed is twofold. Sometimes a series of 
instances is passed in review, and an attempt made to 
ascertain what elements are common to them all, and 
thus deduce a general determination of the concept. The 
second species of induction starts from already existing 
and current definitions, which it subjects to a scrutiny, 
with the view of discovering whether, and to what extent, 
they rest on elements which are really common to the 


different instances comprised under them ; or, on the other 
hand, whether, and to what extent, the possession of 
common characteristics is an illusion, and if so, what 
modification, what extension, or what limitation will make 
the definition a true expression of common characteristics. 
Aristotle, in distinguishing between these two species, 
reserves the name "induction' 1 (the Greek word signifies 
a " leading towards " a goal) for the first of them ; to the 
second he applies the name of ;< parable," that is, juxta- 
position for the purposes of comparison. The Platonic 
dialogues, particularly those of the earlier, or Socratic 
period, are full of instances of both these methods, and will 
be of the greatest service to us in the task of illustrating 
them. The following example, however, will be taken 
from an authority whose lack of subtlety will clear him of 
any suspicion of having given us his own thoughts and 
methods as those of Socrates. The question arose in the 
circle of disciples, so Xenophon tells us, " What is justice ? 
and what is injustice ? " Socrates proposes to write in the 
sand, side by side, the initial letters of the two words, and 
underneath them the names of the various actions that 
belong to the respective categories. In the second column 
are entered such actions as lying, fraud, violence, and so 
forth. Attention is now drawn to instances which seem 
to contradict this arrangement. It appears, in the first 
instance, that all these actions, when performed in war, 
and against enemies, cease to be unjust. Thus a first 
modification is arrived at. The cited modes of action are 
to come under the head of injustice only when practised 
against friends, in the widest sense of the word. But the 
matter cannot rest here. How if a general, with the object 
of reviving the sinking courage of his troops, makes a false 
announcement of the near approach of allied forces ? How 
if a father, whose sick child has refused his medicine, 
mixes it in his food, and by this deception procures his 
restoration to health ? And again, supposing we have a 
friend afflicted with melancholia, how if we remove from 
his possession the weapon by which he might be tempted 
to take leave of life ? We thus obtain a new element in 


the determination of the concept. In order that the actions 
named may be rightly regarded as species of injustice, they 
must be performed in the intention of injuring the persons 
affected by them. It is true that the investigation does 
not issue in a formal definition ; it is, however, an essay in 
classification, such as is calculated to prepare the way for 
such a definition. It is concerned principally with the 
extent, not with the content, of the concept in question. 
But the exacter determination of the sub-varieties of the 
species " injustice " paves the way for a stricter delimitation 
of the content of that concept. Whatever form the defini- 
tion might have finally assumed, it could not but have 
included " the employment of fraud or violence for the 
injury of others than enemies in a state of war." 

Thus, although Socrates was primarily concerned with 
the philosophy of concepts, and to that extent followed a 
line of investigation leading towards the universal, it was 
only with the greatest caution and deliberation that he 
passed from the particular to the general. No feature of 
his method is better attested. In his dread of premature 
generalizations, he is entirely at one with those inquirers 
who in modern times have been considered as pecial 
representatives of the inductive method. We are con- 
tinually reminded of the Baconian precautions against 
inadmissible generalizations. As to the subject-matter for 
his inductions, that could only be supplied by the incidents 
and the ideas which pertain to everyday life and everyday 
thought. "Socrates always chose the most obvious and 
the most commonly accepted starting-point for his in- 
vestigations, thinking this the safest plan," says Xenophon, 
and on this point he is in the closest agreement with Plato. 
His discourse was full of shoemakers and smiths, of fullers 
and cooks, hardly less so of oxen, horses, and asses. His 
conversation thus had a certain homely flavour, and often 
drew forth mocking comment, which he, however, bore with 
smiling equanimity, and with that serene trust in God 
which for him was synonymous with faith in the inevitable 
victory of truth. 

Nor was his peculiar mode of procedure limited to the 


construction of concepts. Concepts, indeed, are merely the 
elements of judgments. We need not be surprised if 
Socrates endeavoured to promote clearness and sureness 
of judgment by direct as well as by indirect means, or 
if he remained true to his methods outside the sphere of 
theoretical investigation. Did he propose to cure a youth 
of immature self-confidence, and shake his belief that he 
was competent to manage the affairs of the state ? He 
would analyze the general conception of state-craft into its 
component parts, and thus, by a series of questions and 
answers, lead the would-be statesman imperceptibly to the 
conclusion that he was altogether lacking in the requisite 
knowledge. On another occasion he uses the same method 
for an entirely opposite purpose. A young man, of good 
sense and ripe judgment, but over-modest, who shrinks 
from taking part in the debates of the assembly, is brought 
by a series of questions to perceive that he has no cause 
to be shy before any one of the different classes of which 
the assembly is composed, and that he need not therefore 
fear to face that assembly as a whole. If special knowledge 
is to be proved to be the indispensable qualification for the 
public service, recourse is again had to questions. Who, 
it is asked, would employ a physician, a pilot, a carpenter, 
and so forth, who had been chosen by lot, instead of select- 
ing a man of known and tried capacity for the task he was 
required to perform ? These are comparatively trivial 
examples of the Socratic method. But it remains the 
same in the treatment of much more difficult and com- 
plicated subjects. Unwearied, too, is the perseverance of 
the master in threading the mazes of an intricate problem. 
The desired solution, when apparently within easy grasp, 
becomes more remote than ever ; it turns and doubles like 
a hunted fox, and, though it may be finally run to earth, 
the chase often ends in a confession of failure, and the long 
toil must be begun afresh. The highest ethical virtue of 
the researcher, inexhaustible patience, is here combined 
with one of the greatest of intellectual excellences, abso- 
lute freedom from prejudice. No proposition, to express 
the Socratic attitude in a formula, is so self-evident, so 


universally true, that we may not be called upon, good 
ground being shown, to reconsider it on first principles and 
test its validity anew. No assertion is so paradoxical or so 
shocking as to absolve us from the duty of giving it a full 
and fair hearing, of diligently scrutinizing the arguments in 
its favour and weighing them with judicial impartiality. 
No investigation, however laborious, is to be shirked, no 
opinion, however repugnant to our feelings, is to be howled 
down, or stifled in ridicule and opprobrium. The wide- 
hearted, strong-headed Athenian thinker succeeded in 
combining two almost irreconcilable attributes fervid zeal 
in discussing the highest concerns of man, and cool, dis- 
passionate candour in the treatment of these very questions. 
His judgment is uncorrupted by love, unclouded by hate. 
There was, indeed, but one thing which he ever hated, to 
wit, that "hatred of discourse," or "misology" which is the 
great obstacle to unfettered and unprejudiced discussion. 
"A life without cross-examination," that is, without dia- 
logues in which the intellect is exercised in the pursuit of 
the truth, is for him "not worth living." 

From the form and the spirit of the Socratic dialogues 
we pass on to their teaching. At this point the reader 
must allow us a digression. The names of Plato, of 
Xenophon, and of Aristotle have been mentioned more 
than once in the preceding pages. In future chapters 
we shall have occasion to treat of these men in their 
character of disciples, direct or indirect, of Socrates. But 
in their capacity of authorities for their master's teaching 
they require some preliminary consideration now. We do 
not possess a single writing of Socrates himself, with the 
possible exception of four lines of verse, and these would 
tell us nothing, even if their authenticity were unquestioned. 
Our knowledge of his teaching rests, therefore, on the testi- 
mony of others, and in greatly preponderating measure on 
that of the three men we have named. In respect of the 
method and spirit of Socrates they are in such complete 
accord that hitherto we have been able to dispense with all 
discussion of their relative trustworthiness. Now, however, 
this question imperatively demands our attention. 


4. By far the greater part of our knowledge is derived 
from the works of Plato. These are all written in the form 
of dialogues. In all of them, with one exception, Socrates 
appears as one of the characters, and usually he plays the 
principal part. The magnificent homage thus rendered to 
the master by the most eminent of his disciples could not 
but be full of instruction for us. An artist of the first 
order, a painter of word-portraits with scarce an equal, has 
presented us with a marvellously clear and vivid likeness 
of his revered friend. The fidelity of this delineation is 
untainted by the least shadow of doubt. It is perfectly 
consistent with itself and with all other accounts of the 
character of Socrates. There is idealization, it must be 
allowed, just as in all other works of great artists in por- 
traiture. The essential features are made to stand out in 
bold relief, while the subordinate traits, or those which 
harmonize ill with the general effect, are lightly sketched 
or left in shadow. It must be remembered, too, that Plato 
nowhere lays claim to exhaustiveness of treatment, and that 
his silence on various episodes in the life of Socrates, on 
this or that detail of his career or his personal relations, 
e.g. to Archelaus, Xenophon, and others, does not possess 
the slightest evidential value. 

The case is very different with the teaching contained in 
the writings of Plato. As the work of an original thinker 
of the first rank, they could hardly be expected to be a 
bare reproduction of the teachings of Socrates. Aristotle, 
who, as we shall presently see, is our chief witness on such 
matters, expressly declares that one of the fundamental 
doctrines of Plato, the so-called doctrine of ideas, was 
foreign to Socrates. Now this very doctrine receives 
manifold and varying illustration in the different writings 
of Plato, and it undergoes more than one transformation 
partly in consequence of the thinker's own advance, partly 
as a result of the influence of others. And yet this doctrine, 
both in its primary form and in most of its modifications, 
is put by Plato into the mouth of Socrates. It is as clear 
as daylight that the poet-philosopher, both here and else- 
where, has allowed himself full and unrestricted liberty, 


as, indeed, was to be expected. How far it is true to say 
that Plato started with a fund of convictions which he 
shared with Socrates, to what extent he believed himself 
to have elaborated and modified the main theories of the 
latter in strict accordance with the spirit of the venerated 
teacher, how, in his declining years, he broke with his own 
past and simultaneously severed the link which bound him 
to Socrates, whom he first relegated to the background 
and then excluded altogether from the framework of his 
dialogues, all this will be made clear when we come to 

o * 

deal with the development of Plato himself. 

Much less artistic freedom, and yet not much more 
historical fidelity, is to be found in the accounts left us by 
Xenophon. This capable officer, who was also a gifted 
author, employed the leisure of middle age in composing a 
series of writings descriptive of the life and teaching of 
Socrates. The most considerable of these is the work 
known as the " Memorabilia," or noteworthy sayings and 
doings of Socrates. Those who have acquired a familiarity 
with the chief characteristics of Xenophon from the 
numerous other productions of his busy pen, will approach 
the study of this work and the three accessory writings, 
in which it is, so to speak, framed, the " Symposium," 
the " CEconomicus," and the somewhat slight " Apology ' 
or defence of Socrates, with' not unfavourable expectations. 
For neither speculative originality nor the impulse towards 
artistic adaptation is present, one would think, in sufficient 
measure to impair the truthfulness of these records. Such 
expectations, however, are doomed to be but imperfectly 
realized. Xenophon lacked certain gifts which might have 
impeded him in his undertaking, but at the same time, he 
lacked some of the qualifications most important for its 

That Xenophon's accounts of the discourses of Socrates 
do not always correspond with the truth, may be proved to 
demonstration from the text of Xenophon himself. At 
the beginning of the work on domestic economy he affirms 
that he was himself present and heard the conversation of 
Socrates with Critobulus. This statement must be a pure 


invention. For in the course of the dialogue, mention is 
made of an event which Xenophon could not possibly 
have heard Socrates speak of. We refer to the death of 
Cyrus the Younger, who fell at Cunaxa, B.C. 401. Xeno- 
phon was in the camp of Cyrus at the time, and he did 
not return to Greece till many years later, long after the 
execution of Socrates in B.C. 399. And we need not go 
far for confirmation of the suspicion thus aroused. Witness 
the detailed consideration given to Persian society, a sub- 
ject with which the disciple had so much, and the master 
so little, concern. The latter, indeed, had never visited 
foreign countries ; in fact, after reaching man's estate, he 
had, apart from a pilgrimage to Delphi, never left Athens, 
except in fulfilment of his military duties. Again, the 
affectionate lingering over the minutiae of agriculture is 
natural enough to an enthusiastic farmer like Xenophon, 
but is not a little strange in the mouth of Socrates, who never 
unnecessarily set foot outside the city gate, because " fields 
and trees," as Plato makes him say, "had nothing to teach 
him." The " CEconomicus " must therefore be erased from 
the list of strictly historical records. And it would be vain 
to attempt to assign to this work, or to the " Symposium ' 
either, any such exceptional position as would enable us to 
maintain intact the historical character of the 'Memora- 
bilia." We find a passage of the last-named work dealing 
with peoples of Asia Minor, the Mysians and the Pisidians, 
describing the peculiarities of the country they inhabit and 
the manner in which they carry on war. These subjects 
are here treated of precisely in the same way as in the 
" Anabasis," the work, that is to say, in which Xenophon 
recorded the retreat of the Ten Thousand, in which he 
himself took part, and incidentally had occasion to give 
an account, based on personal observation, of the above- 
named tribes. The true state of the case is again as clear 
as daylight. It is Xenophon himself that speaks to us 
through the mouth of Socrates. Are we to conclude from 
such examples as these that our author's use of the name 
of Socrates is never anything but an aid to artistic effect, 
that the dialogues are pure fictions, or even that Xenophon 


never wished them to be regarded as anything else ? 
This thesis has been maintained in recent years, but, as we 
think, without any convincing force. In the first place, the 
assumption that Xenophon does not claim to give a record 
of actual facts in his Socratic writings is in glaring contra- 
diction with the nature of the task which he set before 
himself, particularly in the :< Memorabilia." For in that 
work he announces his intention of combating the accusa- 
tions brought against Socrates at his trial, possibly with 
special reference to the literary form afterwards given to 
these accusations by the rhetorician Polycrates. Nor does 
he make exclusive use of dialogue ; the habits of Socrates, 
and particular incidents of his life are laid before us in the 
form of narrative. Moreover, Xenophon declares his design 
of completing in some essential parts the accounts given 
by other disciples. All this would be meaningless if he 
desired the conversations reported in the works to be re- 
garded as mere fiction. The phrase " Wahrheit und Dich- 
tung " has been very fittingly applied to the substance of 
these discourses. It is improbable in the highest degree 
that Xenophon should have invented everything and re- 
ported nothing ; that he should have strained his not too 
powerful imagination to its utmost limit, and made abso- 
lutely no use of the treasures stored in his memory. And 
we have unmistakable indications that by no means all of 
the thoughts, the turns of phrase, the formulas, which occur 
in these discourses, originated in the relatively unfertile 
and commonplace mind of Xenophon himself. By the 
side of almost intolerable prolixities we have passages 
almost incomprehensible in their compressed brevity ; by 
the side of utterances which repel by their triviality, we have 
others marked by incisive originality and pungent paradox. 
Dialogues, too, occur which come to no satisfactory con- 
clusion ; and force us to the hypothesis that the reporter 
of them overlooked or failed to understand their real scope 
and point. 

But how are we to draw the line of demarcation between 
the authentic and the inauthentic with anything like cer- 
tainty ? This is a question which has only been approached 


in recent years, but we believe a fundamentally accurate 
answer has been found to it. If we are to avoid allowing 
a fatal preponderance to the subjective element, particularly 
to personal preferences or antipathies, for or against indi- 
vidual features in Xenophon's presentation ; if we are to 
render to Socrates the things that are of Socrates, and 
to Xenophon the things that are Xenophon's, it is 
absolutely necessary to look for some objective standard of 
judgment. Nor need the search be in vain. We possess, 
on the one hand, numerous other works of Xenophon 
from which we may gain a clear idea of his personal 
characteristics, and even see them to a large extent growing 
out of the circumstances of his life. On the other hand, 
we have at our disposal certain accounts of the substance 
of the Socratic teaching, which, though not very numerous, 
are thoroughly trustworthy. The application of these two 
criteria demands the utmost care and the nicest discrimi- 
nation. It would clash with the plan of the present work to 
present the reader with a full and detailed account of this 
investigation. The result of the first portion of it will be 
embodied in a subsequent section devoted to the life and 
writings of Xenophon. The second of the criteria we have 
referred to is supplied by the curt but thoroughly trust- 
worthy statements of Aristotle. In him we have a witness 
who unites the fullest expert knowledge with the keenest 
judicial acumen ; who was near enough to that .great his- 
torical fact, the work of Socrates, to be accurately informed 
upon it, and at the same time far enough to be unmoved 
by the spell of that magic personality, and to be proof 
against any leaning towards hero-worship. His exposition, 
finally, is neither apologetic in tone nor characterized by an 
artistic disposition of light and shadows, but is plainly and 
severely matter-of-fact. Not that this is a source of 
information which may be drawn upon without several 
precautions. The wording of the references does not 
always enable us to say with certainty whether Aristotle 
has the historical Socrates in view or the Socrates of 
Plato's dialogues. Moreover, he gives no connected 
account of Socrates' teaching ; he only makes casual 


mention of isolated features of it, generally for a polemical 
purpose, probably laying a one-sided emphasis on the weak 
points it presents to criticism, It is nevertheless possible, 
especially if we keep a watchful eye on the sources of 
error just mentioned, to reap from those references a harvest 
of untold value. It must not be forgotten, of course, that 
they are incomplete. Aristotle lived in the midst of the 
schools of the Socratics ; he belonged to one of the most 
important of them himself, and those parts of Socrates' 
teaching which were universally known to be his, and which 
offered the least handle to criticism, were exactly the parts 
of which he had least occasion to speak. But in respect of 
the pith and marrow of Socratic doctrine, the fundamental 
outline underlying all nuances of special developments, we 
are not under the necessity of appealing to express docu- 
mentary evidence. The nature of the mighty cause is 
revealed to us by its own prodigious effects. The streams 
which flowed forth from Paradise to water all the world 
bore eloquent testimony to their glorious fount and origin. 





I. "No man errs of his own free will." These few words 
embody the kernel of Socratism. This is the trunk which 
we have to follow downwards to its roots, and upwards to 
its many ramifications. This short sentence is a terse 
expression of the conviction that every moral deficiency 
has its origin in the intellect, and depends on a vagary of 
the understanding. In other words He who knows what 
is right does what is right ; want of insight is the one 
and only source of moral shortcoming. In view of this 
doctrine we readily comprehend how Socrates was bound 
to put an infinite value on clearness of conception. It is 
more difficult to see how this inordinately high estimate 
of the intellect and of its supreme significance for the 
conduct of life came to be formed in the mind of Socrates. 
Certainly the endeavour to replace hazy ideas and dim 
conjecture by sharply outlined concepts and clear com- 
prehension was a leading characteristic of the whole of 
that age which we have referred to in a previous section 
as the age of enlightenment. The zeal of that age in the 
culture of the intellect, and its employment in the elucida- 
tion of the chief problems both of corporate and of 
individual life, the earnest endeavour to replace tradition 
by self-won knowledge, blind faith by illuminated thought, 
all these tendencies have already been reviewed by us 
repeatedly and in their most characteristic manifestations. 
At the same time, we have had to record various one- 
sided judgments into which men were misled by the new 


trend of thought ; for example, the leaning towards an 
unhistorically rationalistic conception of the past of man- 
kind, particularly with reference to the beginnings of 
civilization, the origin of the state, of language, and of 
society. But the intellectualism, as we have termed it, 
of that age culminates in Socrates. Before his time it had 
been held that the will, equally with the intellect, needed 
a schooling which was to be obtained by means of rewards 
and punishments, exercise and habituation. The reader 
may refer to the account we have already given of the 
educational theories current in that epoch. Socrates argues 
just as if what Aristotle calls the irrational part of the 
soul did not exist. All action is determined by the 
intellect. And the latter is all-powerful. Such a thing as 
knowing what is right and yet disobeying that knowledge, 
believing an action wrong and yet yielding to the motives 
that impel to it, is for Socrates not merely a sad and 
disastrous occurrence ; it is a sheer impossibility. He 
does not combat or condemn, he simply denies, that state 
of mind which his contemporaries called " being overcome 
by desire," and to which the Roman poet gave typical 
expression in the words, " Video meliora proboque ; dete- 
riora sequor " (" I see and approve of the better, but follow 
the worse "). 

Nothing is easier than to detect and to arraign the 
one-sidedness of this point of view. What is much more 
important is to yield full and entire recognition to the 
element of truth contained in the exaggeration, to realize 
how it was that Socrates came to take an important fraction 
of the truth for the whole, and to estimate the magnitude 
of the service rendered to humanity by the greatest of 
the great " one-eyed men " in setting this neglected part of 
truth in the most glaring light. 

Although the state of mind whose existence is denied 
by Socrates does really occur, its occurrence is a far rarer 
phenomenon than is generally supposed. That which is 
overcome by passion is often not character or conviction, 
but a mere semblance of such. And want of clearness of 
thought, confused conceptions, ignorance of the grounds as 


well as of the full scope and exact bearing of precepts to 
which a vague and general assent is yielded, these and 
other intellectual shortcomings go a long way towards 
accounting for that chasm between principles and practice 
which is the greatest curse of life. Where these intellectual 
deficiencies do not altogether destroy unity of character, 
they yet limit its continuance ; and it is through them that 
the most contradictory opposites are enabled to lodge 
peaceably together in the same breast. It is such want, 
of clearness and certainty that makes characters brittle 
and paralyzes their powers of resistance, provides an easy 
victory for wrong motives, and often gives the false 
impression that it was the strength of the attack, not 
the weakness of the defence, that brought about the defeat 
We even find confusion of thought bringing men to 
acknowledge simultaneously several supreme standards of 
judgment which contradict each other. The resulting 
anarchy of soul can hardly be expressed better than in 
the words of a modern French writer of comedies, who 
makes one of his characters say, " Which morality do you 
mean ? There are thirty-six of them. There is a social 
morality which is not the same as political morality, and 
this again has nothing to do with the morality of religion, 
which, in its turn, has nothing in common with the morality 
of business." 

But in spite of all this, the assertion that right thinking 
is a guarantee for right acting has a very limited sphere of 
validity. It can be seriously made only when the end of 
the action is unquestioned, and the sole doubt is as to the 
choice of means. This is particularly the case where the 
end is determined by the undoubted interest of the agent. 
A husbandman sowing his field, a pilot guiding the helm, 
an artisan in his workshop, must, in the great majority of 
cases, have their will directed to the best possible fulfil- 
ment of the task before them. Success or failure will 
for them depend principally on their general acumen and 
their special knowledge. In cases of this type the funda- 
mental principle of Socrates is thus at least approximately 
true. And nothing caused Socrates so much lasting 


astonishment as the perception, which continuously forced 
itself upon him, that in the subordinate departments of life 
men either possess or strive earnestly for the possession of 
clear insight into the relations between means and ends, 
while in their higher concerns, in matters closely affecting 
their weal or woe, nothing of the kind is discernible. This 
contrast made the strongest possible impression upon him, 
and had a decisive influence on the direction of his thought. 


He saw that in all crafts and callings, clearness of intellect 
puts an end to botching and bungling, and he expected the 
like progress to follow as soon as the life of individuals 
and of the community should be illuminated by clear 
insight and regulated by unambiguous rules of conduct, 
which latter could be nothing else than a system of 
means conducive to the highest ends. 

" No man errs of his own free will." This utterance 
has a double significance. First there is the conviction 
that all the numberless shortcomings of actual occurrence 
originate in insufficient development of the understanding. 
And there is a second conviction, lying at the root of the 
first, and conditioning it, namely, that it is only as to the 
means, not the end, of actions that disagreement exists 
among men. Every one without exception is supposed 
to desire what is good. It is not in what they desire that 
men are distinguished from each other, but simply and 
solely in the measure of their capacity for realizing the 
common object of endeavour a difference which depends 
entirely on their several degrees of intellectual development. 

The solution we have just obtained suggests yet another 
enigma. Whence comes this moral optimism of our sage ? 
What was the origin of his faith that every moral deficiency 
arises from error and never from depravity of heart ? The 
primary answer to this question is as follows : He held it 
for an undoubted truth that moral goodness and happiness, 
that moral badness and unhappiness, are inseparably united, 
and that only a delusion bordering on blindness could 
choose the second and reject the first. A line of the comic 
poet Epicharmus, slightly modified, was a favourite quota- 
tion in Socratic circles 


" No man willingly is wretched, nor against his will is blest." 

The Greek word here translated " wretched " has a twofold 
meaning, which may be understood from a comparison of 
the two phrases, " a wretched life," " a wicked wretch." 
Such ambiguities of language gave this optimistic belief 
an appearance of self-evident truth, which it most certainly 
does not possess. There is one phrase in particular whose 
double meaning was especially calculated to provoke this 
illusion. The Greek tu irpuTTtiv, like the English to do 
well, is a common expression for the two ideas of right 
action and of prosperity. And thus, not only is the 
unpractised thinker led into the error of identifying well- 
doing with well-being ; the distinction between the 
" goodness ' of an action which is good in the sense of 
serving the interests of the agent, and that " goodness " 
which means being calculated to advance the ends of 
society, tends to be obliterated. Just as we speak of a 
" bad " character and at the same time of " bad ' tools 
or " bad " sleep, so the Greek language has no lack of 
condemnatory epithets which are equally applicable to an 
unserviceable implement, to a disposition of will running 
counter to the common welfare, and to anything which 
is in a condition incompatible with its own preservation. 
Thus there are many passages in which Plato seems to 
consider the fundamental principle of Socrates, "No man 
errs of his own free will," sufficiently proved by a simple 
reference to the fact that no one chooses voluntarily what 
is bad or hurtful a mode of reasoning which entirely 
overlooks the distinctions we have just been insisting 

The impatient reader has probably anticipated the 
remark we are about to make. Necessary as it may be 
to call attention to the misleading character of certain 
linguistic usages, it cannot be that we have here touched 
the root of the matter. It is not from verbal ambiguities 
or from lack of nice discrimination between allied concepts 
that we expect a new, vigorous, and fertile philosophy of 
life to take its rise. If Socrates maintained the identity 


of virtue and happiness, there can be no doubt that he did 
so firstly and chiefly because he had found them identical 
in his own experience. It is not the language of his 
countrymen, but the voice of his own inmost being, that 
speaks to us here. 

2. Cleanthes, the second head of the Stoic school, wrote 
a book " on Pleasure," in which he quoted, as a favourite 
saying of Socrates, the phrase, " the same man is just and 
happy." In almost verbal agreement with this quotation 
are the following lines, taken from an elegy, of which 
unfortunately only a fragment is preserved, composed by 
Aristotle on the early death of his fellow-student, Eudemus 
of Cyprus : 

" Thus by precept and deed hath he convincingly proved 
That to be happy and good is for ever not two things, but one thing, 
That to be either alone passes the power of man." 

The man here spoken of is one who " alone, or first among 
mortals," proclaimed the above doctrine one, moreover, to 
whom Eudemus, moved by '"high friendship," that is, by 
piety, raised an altar when he came to Athens, thus 
instituting a kind of hero-worship of him (cf. Vol. I. p. 167). 
This man will be identified, on an impartial consideration 
of the case, not, as by some commentators ancient and 
modern, with Plato, who was still alive when Eudemus 
died (in 353), but with Plato's master Socrates. But one 
testimony more or less matters little here. The identifi- 
cation of excellence with evSatfjiovia, or happiness, is the 
common property of all the Socratic school, however 
manifold may have been the modifications which this 
doctrine received at their hands. To its originator the 
principle may have seemed self-evident or nearly so ; the 
more critical eyes of the disciples saw clearly the necessity 
for proof. And the greatest of the Socratic pupils, Plato, 
in the most powerful of all his works, the " Republic," 
applied the whole force of his intellect to the proof of the 
thesis : " The just man, as just, and because he is just, is 

Before we proceed, let us dwell for a moment on the 


motives which led Socrates to adopt this doctrine and to 
employ all the powers of his mighty intellect in preaching 
and enforcing it. The main psychological factors of the 
case are doubtless as follows : Socrates possessed an ideal 
an ideal of calm self-possession, of justice, of fearlessness, 
of independence. He felt that he was happy because, and 
in so far as, he lived up to this ideal. He looked on the 
world around. He found others, too, in possession of 
ideals, but half-hearted withal, lukewarm, divided in mind, 
inconsistent ; and he saw that the effects of these causes 
were manifold deviations from paths once entered upon, 
gifted intellects and forceful characters failing, through lack 
of sure guidance, to secure for their possessors inward 
harmony and lasting peace. To be such a plaything of 
capricious impulses seemed to him a "slavish " condition, 
unworthy of a free man. This is the reproach which 
Alcibiades, the most brilliant representative of the type, 
addresses to himself in the " Symposium " of Plato. Such, 
at least, he appeared to himself to be in comparison with 
Socrates, as he listened to his instruction with beating heart 
and tears in his eyes, the prey of such emotion as none 
other could arouse in him, not even a finished orator like 
his uncle Pericles. And such a "slavish" disposition, 
according to Xenophon, was attributed by Socrates to 
those who, for want of knowledge of " the good, the beauti- 
ful, and the just," groped and wavered in their actions 
like a traveller who has lost his way, or a clumsy arith- 
metician who brings out now one, now another, answer 
to the same problem. That which Socrates observed with 
pain to be lacking in the character of even the foremost 
of his contemporaries was inward consistency and self- 
containedness the government of the whole man by a 
will at one with itself and free from all taint of division. 
We have termed him the great champion of enlightenment ; 
he was at the same time the man who saw most clearly, 
and felt most intensely, the inevitable defects of an age of 
criticism and enlightenment. Ancient faith was under- 
mined ; traditional standards of conduct seemed outwardly 
intact, but their authority was gone ; men's souls were 


full of unrest and desolating discord. This distracted con- 
dition, whose voice speaks to us to-day in the dramas 
of Euripides, must have awakened in deeper natures a 
yearning for a new theory of life, which should exercise 
the same undivided dominion over man as religion had 
done before. Socrates was the originator of such a 
theory. Not that his ideals did not substantially agree in 
many points with the traditions of his countrymen. It 
was only in a few points, chiefly with reference to state 
organization, that he himself subjected the traditions to a 
searching examination, but he paved the way for a more 
exhaustive criticism of them all. The pathos of his life lay 
in the earnest struggle he maintained against all that 
produced discord and schism within the soul. As Cleanthes 
tells us in the passage quoted above, he "cursed as impious 
him who first sundered the just from the useful," and thus, 
we may add, introduced a double weight and measure in 
the souls of men. It was intolerable to him that men 
should follow, now an ethical ideal good enough to declaim 
about on high and holy days, now an ideal of happiness 
poor enough to live for in work-day moods ; that they 
should now bow the knee before the image of God, and 
now lend their arms to the service of an idol. He could 
not tolerate that men should now unite in condemning 
a perjured red-handed usurper like Archelaus of Macedonia, 
and again join unanimously in casting glances of admira- 
tion and envy on the same man's greatness and prosperity.* 
Although the task to which Socrates applied himself was 
that of securing full recognition for a rule of life already 
in existence, and of justifying the acceptance of it on un- 
impeachable first principles, still, he opened up a path 
which could not but lead to the transformation of that 
rule. For the proposition, "Virtue is happiness," early 
admitted of being converted into, " Happiness is virtue." 
The eudaemonism which at first was occupied chiefly, if 
not exclusively, in establishing the validity of traditional 
precepts, was conducted by an infallible necessity to a 

* See Plato's " Gorgias." 


critical scrutiny of the whole content of these precepts. 
The ground was cleared for a revolutionary reconstruction 
of moral, social, and political doctrines. 

But of this revolution and of those contributions to it 
which may be verified as due to Socrates himself, it will be 
time to speak later. What we are at present concerned to 
do is to follow the fundamental principle of Socrates into 
its consequences. Let us hear what Xenophon has to say 
on this subject. One of those discourses which are much 
too full of matter to be regarded as the product of Xeno- 
phon's own intellect runs as follows : 'Wisdom and virtue ' 
it is true that only one particular species of virtue is 
named at first, but the addition of other species afterwards 
completes the idea 

" Wisdom and virtue he did not distinguish, but he deemed 
that one thing was the mark of both, that a man should know and 
practise the beautiful and the good, and that he should likewise 
know and avoid what is foul (shameful) and bad. If he were 
asked further what he thought of those who know what they ought 
to do but perform the opposite, whether he thought them wise and 
excellent, then he would answer, ' Not more so than unwise and 
inferior.' ' 

In other words, he affirmed contradiction between know- 
ledge and action to be an impossibility, and drew the in- 
ference that all moral excellence is simply and solely 
wisdom. By its application to the different departments 
of life, virtue appeared to be manifold. In truth it was 
one, because identical with insight or wisdom. As wisdom, 
it could be taught, and possibly because teaching of such 
importance cannot slip from the mind when once acquired, 
could not be lost. We have here woven together material 
taken partly from Plato and partly from Xenophon, and 
thus placed before the reader the central framework of 
Socrates' teaching on virtue. For it is only a central 
framework that we can offer, not a complete structure. 
How far Socrates advanced beyond the elementary por- 
tions of his teaching by way of working it out in detail, 
we are not likely ever to know with full certitude and 


exactness. Here we have to distinguish between two 
things the positive content of his ethical teaching and its 
logical justification. We will take the second first. 

3. The pyschological ground of Socrates' belief in 
what we may call the all-sufficiency of the intellect is 
already known to us. It is without doubt contained in 
the fact that he was so full of his own ideals as to be 
unable to conceive deviation from them as other than the 
result of intellectual error. But the psychological justifica- 
tion of a theory is one thing, its logical justification quite 
another. A man who desired proof and not declamation, 
who always endeavoured to start from what was most 
currently accepted and least open to doubt, could not be 
satisfied with an appeal to his own feelings. He sought 
for the most objective possible proof, and his task was 
rendered all the easier by a particular defect in the thought 
of that age a failure to distinguish what we term the 
ethics of the individual from what we term social ethics. 
It was on the former that Socrates originally founded his 
own ethical system. Every man desires his own well- 
being. And if his action contradicts this aim, otherwise 
than from devotion to an aim recognized as higher, or 
from blindness due to an overmastering passion, such con- 
tradiction may be ascribed to lack of knowledge, or, as we 
should add, to lack of skill in the application of knowledge. 
This simple reflexion seems to have been the starting- 
point of the Socratic theory, so far, at least, as this was 
based on grounds cognizable by the understanding. 

Countless perversities of conduct, hurtful to the per- 
petrators of them, appeared as deviations from a goal 
which no one with a clear consciousness of its nature would 
be willing to condemn. It was an easy step to look at 
offences against social morality in the same light. It was 
in the interests of this identification that he sought to 
prove that anti-social actions are hurtful to the doers of 
them. Of arguments in this sense Xenophon's "Memora- 
bilia " is full. Friendship is to be cultivated because a 
friend is the most useful of possessions. Family quarrels 
are to be avoided because it is foolish to turn to our own 


hurt what Nature gave us for our good. The laws are to 
be obeyed because such obedience is highly profitable ; and 
so forth. We are unable to accept the view of certain 
modern critics that not only the tediously long and detailed 
exposition, but also the main thought, is un-Socratic. To 
declare all such matter unworthy of Socrates is to overlook 
several distinctions which in this connexion cannot be 
neglected with impunity. What is more important, it is to 
ignore the consequences which flow from the fundamental 
tendency of Socratism. The passionate yearning to save 
human lives from being swayed hither and thither by self- 
contradictory wills, by random opinions and delusions, could 
not but issue in logical demonstrations of this type. That 
which was required was a reduction of " should be ' to 
" is," a replacing of the unprovable imperative by an indi- 
cative bearing on unquestioned and undoubted human 
interests. It was necessary that much should be justified 
before the bar of reason which all souls of native worth 
and noble nurture feel to need no justification whatever. 
The uneasy feelings which these expositions rouse in the 
modern reader is due partly to causes of this kind as well 
as to the trivialities of Xenophon's manner, and his habit 
of spinning out the most obvious thoughts to inordinate 
length. Moreover, the impression is conveyed that these 
exhortations, pointing, as they do, to remote advantages 
obtainable at the cost of immediate and considerable 
efforts and sacrifices, are ill adapted to provide efficient 
motives to action. There is even something repulsive in 
the idea of such motives being constantly present in the 
consciousness of those who are moved by them. A mother 
who nurses her sick child with the object, and only the 
object, of bringing him up to be the support of her old age, 
is a grotesque and revolting spectacle. But, apart from 
the provision of motives, and ever-present motives, there 
is another point of view, much more favourable to these 
disquisitions, that of the intellectual justification, the 
rational basis of ethical obligations. Considered in this 
light, these disquisitions have their fitting place in the 
Socratic system, nor are they without a real value of their 


own. The objects aimed at are that of defending the 
cultivation of family and friendly affections and of other 
altruistic feelings before the cold scrutiny of reason, and 
that of supporting the unity of tJie ivill by the more or less 
well-founded doctrine, that conflicts between the claims of 
society and those of private interests are merely apparent. 
By this means, though it may be impossible to create new 
motives for good action, those which already exist may be 
reinforced on the intellectual side, and shielded from the 
attacks of the anti-social spirit. It matters little that in a 
first attempt of this character more stress should have been 
laid on the coarser, more palpable, and more superficial 
utilities than on those of a finer order, which at the same 
time are more indirect and more persistent in their 

But the treatment of ethical questions from the stand- 
point of reason has other uses of far deeper significance. 
Goodness or benevolence of sentiment does not spring from 
reflexion. It is the fruit of innate tendency, of education, 
of environment. Logical demonstrations cannot call it 
into existence. But supposing they find it already ex- 
istent, they can do something to guide its operation. Not 
ignorance so much as confusion of thought is the enemy to 
be overcome. And this is the enemy on which the dia- 
lectic of Socrates made unceasing war. In this struggle 
the endeavour after sharply defined ideas could not but 
render yeoman's service. Though clearness of concepts is 
not enough to create new motives, it is enough to prevent 
or retard the invasion of the soul by those motives which, 
like certain fungi, thrive only in semi-obscurity. How 
many an action, injurious to the common welfare, would 
have been left unperformed, had not a veil of misty thought 
concealed from the doer of it the fact that it belonged to a 
class of actions admitted by himself to be reprehensible. 
This remark applies to various doubtful practices which 
are justified by the so-called ethics of business, and to 
various actions prejudicial to the interests of the state, 
which latter is regarded by preference as an abstraction 
rather than as a collectivity of sentient human beings. 


We are reminded of the fine saying of J. S. Mill : " If the 
sophistry of the intellect could be rendered impossible, that 
of the feelings, having no instrument to work with, would 
be powerless." And apart from all the confusion of thought 
that haunts the individual brain, what a list could be made 
of questions in respect of which the general mind is in the 
same ill plight ! Could Socrates appear among us, how 
often and how victoriously would he cross swords in dia- 
lectic fence with the representatives of public opinion ! 
Imagine the smile of scorn with which he would drive the 
legislator to confess that duelling is both commanded and 
forbidden to the same persons at the same time ! How he 
would enjoy proving that precisely similar incidents are 
judged differently according to the section of society in 
which they take place ! How he would scourge a system 
of education which implants in our youth, sometimes simul- 
taneously, sometimes consecutively, mutually exclusive 
ideals of life ! With what pleasure would he drag into the 
light of day all the glaring contradictions in which jour- 
nalists and politicians daily entangle themselves, whenever 
they speak of such things as " political morality " or the 
" sanctity of treaties " ! We can hardly be wrong in assum- 
ing that his efforts to promote the sharp delimitation of 
concepts, and to dispel all the dark clouds of confusion and 
contradiction that beset the mind of man, were of more 
than theoretical importance ; that, in fact, they bore rich 
fruit in the world of practice. If among the ancient 
philosophers who came after Socrates there appeared a 
great number of men distinguished by singleness of heart 
and purpose, if ideals which, though open to criticism, 
were yet of the highest value, came to be cherished with 
impressive perseverance and practised with magnificent 
consistency in the schools of the Cynics, the Cyrenaics, the 
Stoics, and the Epicureans, it is to the mental discipline 
instituted by Socrates that these results must largely be 

So much for the work of Socrates on the foundations 
of morality, and the critical investigation of concepts, which 
was closely bound up with it. We now come to the 


content of the Socratic ethics. Here, however, our survey 
must enlarge its scope. The regulation of individual con- 
duct goes hand-in-hand with that of social practice. It is 
not with ethics alone, but with ethics and politics combined, 
that we have now to deal. It is true that a fully elabo- 
rated system of Socratic doctrine is to be looked for in 
neither of these departments. But the spirit in which he 
discussed the totality of these questions can be inferred 
without ambiguity from certain features which are common 
to the theories of his successors, and which are in the 
closest possible agreement with the few well-attested details 
of his personal teaching which are known to us. 

" That is, and ever will be, the best of sayings," says 
Plato, "that the useful is the noble, and the hurtful is the 
base." The usefulness and the hurtfulness here spoken of 
have reference to the community, and the "enthusiasm of 
sobriety " that dictated these words of the poet-philosopher 
assuredly glowed with a yet stronger fire in the bosom of 
his teacher, the apostle of the intellect. He will not hear 
of any good thing which is not also good, that is, useful, to 
some person. "A dung-basket that fulfils its purpose is 
more beautiful than an unserviceable shield of gold." This 
is one of the sayings of Socrates reported by Xenophon, 
one of those pungent sentences which the author of the 
"Memorabilia" was absolutely incapable of inventing for 
himself, and of which there is no good ground for doubting 
the authenticity. Be that as it may, the promotion of 
human welfare was certainly, in the opinion of Socrates, 
the supreme canon of social and political practice. And 
subserviency to this same highest end was in his eyes the 
one standard by which to judge of the goodness or badness 
of actions. But he made no attempt whatever to construct 
synthetically a system of cardinal obligations. Here, just 
as in the inquiry into the nature of individual happiness, 
he was not ambitious enough to undertake either the 
ultimate analysis of the foundations or the erection of a 
superstructure of positive dogma. Nor did he essay the 
delimitation of the respective spheres of the individual and 
the community. All this he left to his successors. 


Utilitarian ethics, or, as we prefer to say, the ethics of 
consequences, may be confidently ascribed to Socrates. 
Usefulness or expediency is the guiding star of his thought 
on political, social, and ethical questions. He may be 
termed the founder of that intellectual radicalism which, 
on the one hand, is without price as an implement of 
criticism and as an offensive weapon against what is 
worthless in existing institutions, but which, on the other 
hand, may on occasion be dangerous and disastrous when 
it insists on the immediate or the violent fulfilment of its 
demands, which latter are, after all, in any particular case, 
nothing more than the pronouncements of fallible human 
minds. Reason before authority, utility before tradition 
or blind emotion such is the battle-cry in the campaign 
prepared, but only partially conducted, by Socrates. He 
himself remained to a considerable extent under the sway 
of the traditional sentiments of his countrymen. The 
fundamental principle for which he strove to win recogni- 
tion was the supremacy of enlightened reason. Here again 
we discern shadow as well as light. There can be little 
doubt that the recognition of this principle was calculated 
to loosen many a bond of duty and affection. The reproach 
was urged against it, hardly without reason, that it pro- 
voked children to rebel against the " unreasonable " will 
of their parents, that it commended wisdom rather than 
age to the reverence of the young. Respect, too, for exist- 
ing political institutions could not but be greatly impaired 
by the trenchant criticism to which he subjected them. 

It was in particular the appointment of officials by lot 
against which, as we have already remarked in anticipation, 
he was never weary of inveighing. He thus worked for a 
future in which special or expert knowledge, to him and 
his followers the most precious thing in the world, was 
destined to play a greater part in state administration than 
it did in the Athens of his day. For all that, his criticism 
is not to be endorsed without reserve. Offices of cardinal 
importance were neither then nor at any other time filled 
by lot. And against the undoubted drawbacks of the 
system we may set certain mitigating circumstances and 


certain positive advantages. Under the first head may 
be placed the short tenure of office by individuals, the 
great number of officials composing each separate board, 
the dread of exposure which kept the incompetent from 
participation in the lot-drawing which led to the more 
important offices, such as membership of the hard-worked 
council of five hundred. Still more weight must be 
attached to the diffusion of political education thus brougth 
about, and ih^ strengthening of public spirit. Lastly and 
chiefly, the party divisions of the little commonwealth, 
dangerous as they actually were, would have been far 
more disastrous had it been the custom for the victorious 
party to take possession, by virtue of its majority, of every 
branch of the administration, thus aggravating in fatal 
measure the contrast between victor and vanquished. As 
it was, this contrast was greatly softened by the privilege, 
accorded to the minority for the time being, of co-operating 
n the public service. On the other hand, Socrates was in 
complete agreement with modern sentiment when he com- 
bated that prejudice against free labour which is almost 
inevitable in every slave state ; when he, a son of the 
people, showed himself more radical than Plato or Aristotle, 
by refraining from all depreciation of "banausic" callings. 
He held, and this accorded well with his high estimate of 
the number of things that can be taught, that the female 
sex was capable of higher developments than the great 
majority of his countrymen thought possible. It would at 
least be a strange freak of chance if the concordant utter- 
ances on this subject of Plato, Xenophon, and Antisthenes, 
all of whom reject qualitative differences of mental endow- 
ment in the sexes, did not flow from a common source. 

But we must not lose ourselves in details. The main 
point is the emphatic assertion of the rights of criticism as 
against all authority and all tradition, the measurement 
of all institutions, ordinances, and precepts by a single 
standard their fitness, as ascertained by experience and 
reasoned reflexion, to promote the welfare of mankind. 
This standard is no doubt one whose application in human, 
that is to say, in fallible hands, often leads to error ; still, 


all the philosophers of two thousand years have failed to 
provide us with a better. Utilitarianism, its advantages, 
the misapprehensions which prevent its being fully under- 
stood, the real or apparent objections which may be raised 
against it, all these subjects will receive attention in a 
later portion of this work, where we shall deal with the 
more pronounced form of the fundamental doctrine given to 
it by the successors of Socrates. It will then be necessary 
to unravel the confused tangle of eudaemonistic, hedonistic, 
and utilitarian theories, with their sub-varieties. For the 
present, a single observation will suffice. It is quite possible 
to reject utterly individual eudasmonism as the basis of 
morals, and yet at the same time to hold firmly to social 
utility as the supreme standard in ethics and politics. It 
is possible to abandon even this standpoint though for 
our part, in spite of the captious objections which have been 
raised against it, we know of no adequate substitute and 
yet retain the method according to which every institution, 
every precept, every rule of conduct, is considered as a 
means to some clearly conceived end, and tested in respect 
of its appropriateness thereto. He who cleaves to this 
method is at once on Socratic ground and within the 
limits of rational investigation. Wherever two or three 
are met together it may be said to discuss human con- 
cerns by the light of reason, there is Socrates among them. 
4. It was not directly, but through the medium of 
his intellectual children, grandchildren, and still remoter 
posterity, that Socrates exerted, upon wide circles of men 
and upon distant ages, an influence which at every step 
received accretions from collateral sources. It was very 
different with a man of the far East, a kindred soul and 
almost a contemporary of Socrates Confucius (died 478 
B.C.), who is honoured by the inhabitants of the Middle 
Kingdom and the neighbouring regions as the founder of 
their religion, and whose writings, regarded as canonical, 
offer many points of resemblance to the utterances of 
Socrates. " The extension of knowledge," we read in the 
thirty-ninth book of the Li Ki, " is by the investigation of 
things. Things being investigated, their knowledge became 


complete. Their knowledge being complete, their thoughts 
were sincere. Their thoughts being sincere, their hearts 
were then rectified. Their hearts being rectified, their 
persons were cultivated. Their persons being cultivated, 
their families were regulated. Their families being regu- 
lated, their states were rightly governed." Thus Confucius. 
On this passage, a critic of high authority, Georg von der 
Gabelentz, expresses himself as follows : " We see that 
where he might be expected to treat of conscience, he 
speaks of knowledge and its perfecting. It is as if he 
regarded morality as an affair of the intellect, and as 
something which can be taught." And as basis of the 
latter, Confucius gives a logical deduction of ethical obli- 
gations, starting from the happiness of the agent ; conse- 
quently, he has, as a matter of fact, not escaped the charge 
of eud^emonism. But the superstructure built on this 
foundation is a species of altruism free from extravagance 
or quixotism. " Love one another ; " " Requite good with 
good, and evil with justice ; " " What thou wouldst not that 
another should do to thee, that do not to another ; " such 
is the tenor of some of his admonitions. And that 
eudasmonism provided ethics with a foundation which made 
up in solidity what it lacked in elevation. For example, in 
a Chinese State paper of the ninth century of our era we 
read the following sentences: "May it please your majesty! 
I have heard that he who eradicates evil himself, reaps 
advantage in proportion to his work ; and that he who adds 
to the pleasures of others, himself enjoys happiness. Such 
was ever the guiding principle of our ancient kings." By 
happiness is here meant that which can be enjoyed upon 
earth, for with the Chinese moral philosophers of the 
Confucian school all outlook upon a hereafter of rewards 
and punishments is entirely lacking. Both in this respect 
and in the attitude of indecision towards the question of 
immortality there is a close parallel with Socrates, who is 
made by Plato, in the "Apology," to confess his entire 
uncertainty as to the nature of death. Again, the pious 
Xenophon, herein doubtless influenced by the Master, puts 
into the mouth of his dying hero, Cyrus, all manner of 


proofs of immortality, which, however, only lead up to halt- 
ing utterances on the continued existence of the soul. 

This scepticism was by no means confined to Socrates. 
There is still preserved a fragment of a memorial inscription 
in honour of those who fell at Potid?ea. If Socrates, who 
also took part in that campaign, had cast his eye upon this 
inscription, he would have seen in the line, "Then by the 
earth his body, his soul was received by the ether," what 
one might almost call an official rejection of personal 
immortality. For the faith upheld by Mystics and Orphics 
had in that age no firm hold on the mass of the people, 
and needed to contend perpetually with unbelief. That 
belief, that the soul returns to the ether as the body to the 
earth, was held by Socrates' friend Euripides, as by the 
philosophical comedian Epicharmus before him. That 
which was called in question was the personal, not the 
conscious, survival of the soul ; for the ether, or heavenly 
substance, was conceived as the vehicle of a world-soul 
identified with the supreme Deity. But Euripides would 
not have been Euripides if in this one instance he had 
held firmly to a definite conviction instead of allowing it 
on the whole to preponderate over its opposite. By the 
side of this pantheistic faith, his dramas exhibit complete 
uncertainty on the destiny of souls ; indeed, hopes are held 
out of a final extinction of consciousness. Vacillation of 
this type, coupled with a progressive weakening of the 
belief in the soul, seems to have been the prevailing note 
of the latter part of the fifth century. Even in quarters 
where no doubts were admitted as to personal survival, 
there was little recognition of the dignity or the blessed- 
ness of the departed, and it was nowhere maintained with 
confidence that they had any part in the events of the 
earth. The literary evidence of this trend of thought is 
instructively supplemented by the monuments. The oldest 
Athenian graves, which date from about 700 B.C., testify to 
the strength of the belief in souls and the high honour in 
which souls were held, by the abundance and splendour of 
the gifts buried with the dead, as well as by the arrange- 
ments indicating memorial sacrifices. In the course of 


time we notice a gradual fading away of these feelings. 
The love-gifts do not cease, but at the time when 
monuments are artistically most perfect, they are dis- 
tinguished by an almost mechanical uniformity. At the 
end of the fourth century all wealth of ornamentation 
entirely disappears ; the limitations of funeral expenses 
enacted by Demetrius of Phalcron are obeyed with ready 
compliance, even at a time whea they had ceased to be 
enforced. The responsibility of this change may without 
injustice be laid on the decay of the belief in souls, as well 
as on the impoverishment of the people. 

5. There were other matters of faith in which Socrates 
held a middle position. He was neither an atheist nor a 
pillar of orthodoxy. So much, at least, seems certain, 
though there is great doubt on particular details. The 
accounts of Socrates' trial and death bear witness to his 
deep religious feeling. He regarded himself as devoted 
to the service and as under the protection of the Deity. 
But the exact nature of his theological belief cannot be 
stated with certainty. That the gods of mythology were 
the objects of his personal adoration is a priori improbable. 
Had his standpoint been simply that of the popular religion, 
the indictment laid against him could hardly have received 
the form it did, or his accusers would not have succeeded 
in winning several hundred Athenian jurors to their side. 
In the other trials of a similar character, such as those of 
Diagoras, Anaxagoras, and Protagoras, evidence against 
the accused was supplied by their own writings. It is not 
likely that in this one instance definite testimony was dis- 
pensed with, and its place taken by mere hearsay. And it 
may be observed that the answer given in Plato's "Apology" 
to this part of the indictment is particularly weak. In fact, 
it seeks to veil the impossibility of meeting the main point 
by various forensic makeshifts. The accuser is nonj lussed 
by cross-questions and surprised into pushing his contention 
far beyond its original scope, thus affording an easy handle 
for attack ; the rest of the reply is made up of inconclusive 
linguistic and logical artifices. We must consider, too, that 
the standpoint of popular mythology was one which had 


long been regarded in philosophical circles as untenable, 
and, what is still more important, that this dissent was 
afterwards a feature of all the different Socratic schools, 
though it appeared in the most diverse forms. Nor is it 
a fact without significance that the individual deities to 
whom he is represented by Plato as praying or otherwise 
rendering acknowledgment, or whose existence he is said 
to have maintained with any energy, are none other than, 
on the one hand, Apollo, the lord of the Delphic sanctuary, 
where lofty wisdom and advanced ethical culture had their 
seat, and, on the other hand, the Sun and Moon, that is, 
those very parts of the natural world which Plato and 
Aristotle continued to regard as divine entities. 

What Socrates requires of the gods, or of the deity, 
is simply "the good." Wherein this consists, in any in- 
dividual case, the gods, so he thinks, know better than 
men. To ask from them definite goods or help in securing 
definite ends, seemed to him as out of place as we might 
have expected a priori that it would seem to an ethical 
philosopher who would fain see man firmly planted on his 
own base, that is, on his powers as conditioned by his 
knowledge, as independent as may be of everything 
external. Thus he put but little value on details of cultus, 
and bade men worship the deity without extravagance or 
over-refinement, in simple fashion, "according to the laws 
of the state," in agreement with the pronouncement of the 
Delphic oracle. In the " Euthyphro " of Plato Socrates is 
represented as pouring out the full vials of his scorn on 
all holiness resting on works and on all sectarian fanaticism, 
and as coming to the sufficiently clearly expressed con- 
clusion that piety is rather a disposition accompanying just 
actions with which latter it is identified elsewhere in Plato 
than an independent virtue embracing a particular circle 
of duties. That a pure heart is more pleasing to the deity 
than abundance of offerings, is a declaration which is put 
in the mouth of Socrates by Xenophon, who, on this 
subject, was far removed from the standpoint of his master. 

Not essentially different was the attitude of Socrates 
towards the arts of divination. Xenophon, who had 

HIS " D&MON* 87 

himself a strong leaning towards these arts, reports him as 
censuring men for going to the gods and the interpreters 
of their signs for counsel on matters which they had the 
power of knowing and doing for themselves. 

One exception to this hostile attitude regarded the 
Delphic oracle, that sanctuary which had already won the 
sympathy of Socrates by the inscription on its wall, " Know 
thyself," afterwards one of his favourite sayings. Like the 
overwhelming majority of his contemporaries, he saw in 
dreams manifold instances of divine intervention. But 
what are we to say of the famous Saifiowov, that is, of that 
voice of a god or a spirit, which played a part of no small 
importance in his life ? Could we credit Xenophon, 
Socrates claimed for himself, on the strength of this voice, 
a prophetic gift of quite peculiar nature. He foresaw the 
future, and made use of his foresight to bid his friends do 
this, or leave that undone ; whereupon it went well with 
those who followed his counsel, and ill with those who 
rejected it. The testimony of Plato is to quite another 
effect. He knows nothing of predictions, nothing of any 
positive commands addressed to Socrates, or any counsel 
transmitted by him to his friends. For him the pheno- 
menon was one of still more peculiar type and much more 
limited scope. From early youth upwards it frequently 
happened to Socrates, both on important and on trivial 
occasions, that he was restrained from doing what he was 
on the point of doing, by compulsion from within, which 
compulsion he sometimes called " a voice " (at other times 
it is simply " the accustomed sign "), and attributed to a 
god or spirit as much because of his inability to explain 
it as because of the benefits he derived from obeying it. 
The divergency between the two accounts is highly in- 
structive, and calculated to inspire us with a profound 
suspicion of Xenophon's testimony. He would have been 
well pleased to make Socrates into a kind of soothsayer 
or miracle-monger, and he was thus led, perhaps not to 
introduce downright inventions of his own, but to blur the 
true features of the case by additions and omissions, thus 
producing a picture which had just enough in common with 


the reality to make the deception effective. But what are 
we to think of the Smpoviov ? We can neither range it in 
the category of veritable premonitions, and compare it with 
Jung-Stilling's experiences of a continuous intercourse with 
the Deity, confirmed at every step by the fulfilment of 
expectations ; nor can we agree with various ancient writers 
in considering it as merely the voice of conscience. The 
statement that the ^ai^oviov held him back whenever he 
felt any inclination to take an active part in politics, may 
be taken to indicate that he was here guided by a species 
of instinct, a dim but truthful estimate of his own capa- 
bilities emerging from the sub-conscious under-currents 
of psychic life. And perhaps a similar remark holds in 
respect of that incident in which the inner voice restrained 
him from complying with the wish of certain disciples who 
desired to renew the familiar intercourse they had pre- 
viously broken off. In other cases this peculiarity of 
Socrates is employed by Plato in a half-jesting manner, 
as affording motives for actions of little importance, merely 
as an aid to dramatic effect in the construction of the 
dialogue. The discourse promised to the reader gains in 
interest if Socrates is represented as having been on the 
point of leaving the place where it was held, or of breaking 
off the conversation, and as having been detained only by 
a sign from his familiar spirit. Whether the warnings that 
arose from the depths of the unconscious took the form of 
actual hallucinations of the sense of hearing, or whether 
insignificant feelings of inhibition, such as we have all 
experienced, were also regarded by Socrates as instances 
of divine intervention, so that the Saijmoviov became a 
common name for psychical processes of more than one 
kind on such questions as these we are thrown back on 
conjecture, and are hardly in a position to formulate even 
a conjecture with any show of probability. We are nearly 
as helpless in the face of the highly important question 
which still remains to be considered, that of the nature of 
the Supreme Deity acknowledged by Socrates. That his 
position should have been a naive acceptance of tradition, 
is a possibility which we are certainly entitled to neglect. 


In reality, there are only two alternatives before us. The 
Supreme Deity of Socrates may have been, like that of 
Xenophanes, an informing mind or soul pervading the 
universe. Or it may be that he regarded the Deity as a 
Supreme Being, perhaps not the creator, but, at any rate, a 
power that orders and shapes the world in accordance with 
his own purposes. In other words, Socrates' conception of 
the Deity was either a pantheistic-poetical one, or a deistic- 
teleological. But merely to state these alternatives, we 
fancy we hear the reader exclaim, is to decide between 
them. Only the second of these modes of conceiving the 
Deity seems appropriate to the sobriety of thought and the 
utilitarian leanings characteristic of our sage. There is, 
doubtless, much plausibility in this view. But we do not 
admit that it is one to be immediately and finally adopted. 
An instance which lies close at hand will make plain the 
danger which lurks in such inferences. Suppose that the 
belief of Socrates in his spirit-monitor were only known to 
us by dim hearsay ; how confidently might we not have 
rejected the story on the ground that all such mysticism 
is foreign to the nature of a man who was common-sense 
incarnate ! Great men commonly unite within their natures 
elements of the most varied, even of the most contradictory, 
character; indeed, it is in such union that their greatness 
largely consists. If we undertake to construct the unknown 
part of a personality solely from the part revealed to us, we 
are like to introduce into the resulting picture more unity, 
but at the same time more monotony and tameness, than 
the truth would warrant. Within the Socratic School the 
idea of God assumed many different forms. Euclides, the 
founder of the Megarian branch, enthroned the All-One of 
the Eleatics ; Antisthenes, the head of the Cynics, preached 
the sovereignty of a single God, conceived, it would appear, 
with more of the attributes of personality. 

If it be asked which of the two disciples followed the 
master more closely, the question cannot be answered with 
any certainty. Aristotle is silent ; Plato reports nothing, 
but pursues his own path, marked out for him by the doctrine 
of ideas ; there remains the least valuable of our witnesses, 


Xenophon. This author has devoted two much-discussed 
sections of the " Memorabilia " to the theological problem, 
which he answers in a teleological and almost exclusively 
anthropocentric sense. According to this evidence, Socrates 
regarded divine activity solely from the point of view of 
human utility. The two dialogues (with Aristodemus and 
Euthydemus) are full of allusions to the evidence of design 
contained in the structure of the animal, especially the 
human, body, and to the general ordering of nature in a 
manner conducive to the welfare of man ; all of which 
allusions are aimed at the conversion of doubters and 
unbelievers by bringing home to them the fact of divine 
providence. The objections which have been raised against 
the genuineness of these chapters have proved to be with- 
out foundation. But it is still an open question whether 
their content is the intellectual property of Socrates or of 
Xenophon himself. Certainly no high degree of originality 
can be claimed for them. We have already met with 
kindred reflections in Herodotus (Vol. I. p. 267) ; and the 
problem of design is one which occupied both Anaxagoras 
and Diogenes of Apollonia. These thinkers, however, we 
may remark in passing, took too broad a view of the question 
to set down the whole animal kingdom as created for the 
service of man. There are several details in these chapters 
which suggest that the voice here speaking to us is that of 
the much-travelled Xenophon with his varied experiences 
and practical knowledge of the world, rather than that of 
his teacher Socrates. The latter, possibly, may be credited 
with the main thought, the purposeful operation of the 
Godhead or " universal reason ; " the exposition, however, 
can hardly be his. 

We shall probably not be wrong in passing a similar 
verdict on a portion of the argument by which Xenophon 
seeks to explain why Socrates made no attempt to con- 
tinue the speculations of the nature-philosophers who pre- 
ceded him. We should not, indeed, be disinclined to 
believe that the incurable discrepancy of the older systems 
passed in his mind for a proof that the problems they dealt 
with were insoluble (cf. Vol. I. p. 494). One denies all 


rest, another denies all motion ; one assumes a single 
universal substance, another an infinite plurality of sub- 
stances. That, to his thinking, the champions of such 
glaringly contradictory theories proved nothing except the 
hopelessness of their common efforts, that their mutually 
destructive assertions, all of which were maintained with 
equal confidence, appeared to him as the utterances of men 
not wholly sane, all this is possible enough. But it is not 
so easy to believe that in forming a judgment on the 
nature-philosophers an original thinker like Socrates stood 
on the same plane as the ordinary Athenian philistine ; 
that in the labours of those hardy pioneers he saw nothing 
but inflated presumption and an unseemly trespassing on 
the preserves of the gods. Had this been Socrates' way of 
thinking, public opinion would hardly have confounded 
him to such fatal purpose with the infidel " heaven- 
searchers " and other representatives of the age of en- 



I. SOCRATES was nearingthe threshold of advanced old age 
when the storm by which he had long been threatened 
burst over his head. The pent-up forces of deep ill will 
and sullen distrust which had long been accumulating in 
the breasts of his fellow-citizens, now found vent in an 
explosion which led to one of the most tragic events which 
have darkened the annals of human civilization. To judge 
rightly of this collision between a noble people and one of 
the noblest of its sons is a task of extreme delicacy. We 
shall endeavour, so far as is possible, to let the facts 
speak plainly for themselves, and to weigh their testimony 
with the strictest impartiality. 

The dislike of the average Athenian for enlighteners of 
every kind, let them be called " sophists " or " heaven- 
searchers," is, if anything, too familiar to the reader. 
Socrates was not merely confused with the representatives 
of these types ; he passed for the supreme example and 
pattern of them. We know this on the testimony of the 
comic poets the men, that is to say, who both knew best 
what public opinion was, and who had the greatest power 
of influencing it. Some of their contemptuous and spiteful 
expressions have already been quoted ; we have no inten- 
tion of exhausting the list. But we may remind the reader 
that the same Eupolis who caricatured the so-called sophists 
in " The Flatterers " did not spare Socrates either, but 
placed him exactly on a level with Protagoras. Both alike 
are held up to derision because they spend their time 


ruminating on the highest subjects, but yet stoop to the 
lowest expedients in order to satisfy their ordinary wants. 
But while the worst said of Protagoras is that he searches 
the heavens and fetches his food from the dust-hole, Socrates 
is represented as a guest who steals a soup-ladle. Nor is 
it a case of ill will on the part of a few individual writers 
of comedy. The number and the variety of the relevant 
passages which have been preserved (mostly by accident) 
is far too great to admit of any such hypothesis. In addi- 
tion to Eupolis, we have to mention Teleclides, Ameipsias, 
and Aristophanes. To the first of these Socrates is odious 
as partly responsible for those dramas which in so many 
ways offended popular sentiment the dramas of Euripides, 
the poet in whose house the book of Protagoras on the 
gods was read aloud. Ameipsias speaks of him as " the 
best among a few, but among many the most foolish ; who 
studies everything but the means of obtaining a new cloak." 
In this same comedy, the " Connus," so named after Socrates' 
music-teacher, the chorus was composed of " thinkers " or 
" ruminators." We are reminded of the contemporary 
"Clouds' of Aristophanes (first produced 423), that venp- 
mous pasquinade in which the hero is not, as subsequently 
in the " Birds ' (414), or in the "Frogs" (405), merely an 
uncouth bore whose companionship spoils the art of 
Euripides. The " thinking-shop " is rather the home of 
idle musing, of free-thinking heresy, a place where youths 
are trained in undutifulness, and in all the vulgar arts of 
lying and swindling. In view of all this heaped-up malice, 
we may well wonder that Socrates continued for a quarter 
of a century to live and work unmolested in a city where 
freedom of thought and speech was not a recognized prin- 
ciple. It is plain that the inherited tendency to intolerance, 
possessing as it did a ready weapon in the existing laws, 
was effectually counterpoised by the habits of life and 
thought distinctive of the age of Pericles. There must 
have been, we conjecture, some extraordinary circumstance 
or experience that fanned into fierce flame the spark which 
had smouldered so long. For such circumstances we have 
not far to seek. 


The Peloponnesian war was over, and great had been 
the fall of Athens. Humiliation before external foes had 
been associated with the weakness caused by an embittered 
civil war. From the latter the Athenian Demos had 
emerged victorious (B.C. 403). But the state had been 
shaken to its foundations ; the comparison between past 
and present forced itself with irresistible power on every 
eye, and filled every heart with grief and mourning. Men 
could not but search around them for the deeper causes of 
the fatal transformation, and endeavour to learn some 
useful lesson from the contemplation of their misfortunes. 

We imagine we can hear the querulous voice of some 
aged Athenian, who has unexpectedly met a foreign friend 
in the market-place. " What ! ' says he, " you hardly 
recognize Athens in these empty streets, this desolate 
harbour ? And little wonder. Our defeats, the loss of our 
navy, colonies, and tribute has made us a poor people, 
poor in hope as well as in everything else. If you want 
to see cheerful faces, go to Sparta. But you will find our 
proud conquerors bowing humbly before the Lord of fate 
and of its holy decrees. There Zeus is not dethroned, 
there Zeus has not made way for the ' King Vortex ' our 
celestial wiseacres talk about so much. The Spartans 
would soon put in force their ' act for the expulsion of 
undesirable aliens' if rogues of that stamp came among 
them. Look at us, and look at the difference. Our young 
men are as bold as you can possibly imagine ; all religious 
fear has vanished long ago. And it is all the fault of the 
new-fangled philosophy-teachers. True, Anaxagoras was 
accused of impiety a generation ago, and sent out of the 
country ; Protagoras the same. But the worst of them all 
is here still : Socrates goes on in the same old way, just as 
if Aristophanes (he's one of the right sort) had not exposed 
him twenty years ago. And what a conceit the man has 
of himself by now! Only the other day King Archelaus 
asked him to court along with all our best poets, and he 
declined the honour with his usual modesty which I call 
arrogance. And then there are young foreigners from 
Megara, Elis, Thebes, and as far off as Cyrene, all coming 


to him to benefit by his instruction. Yes, instruction ; for 
though he hates to be called a teacher or sophist, the dis- 
tinction is much too fine for our poor comprehension. 
There he sits, in his dirty little house, with his scholars 
all round him, and reads out of yellow rolls, and explains 
to them, after his own fashion, the works of poets and 
sophists. He lives mostly on presents from his well-to-do 
'friends' or 'companions.' As for his boasting that he 
knows no difference between rich and poor, and is at the 
disposal of all alike, so much the worse, say I. The other 
sophists dispense their poison only when they are well paid 
for it ; he scatters it abroad gratis. And would to God he 
had done nothing worse than waste time and brains on the 
silly problems we split our sides over when the ' Clouds ' 
was on the stage. If only he could have stuck to counting 
the flea-lengths between Chserephon's eyebrow and his own 
bald patch, that would not have mattered so much. But 
he has taught young men to beat and bind their ' un- 
reasonable' fathers. He has shaken their faith in the 
gods. Talk to the son of the Thracian woman, the bastard 
Antisthenes, or to Aristippus of Cyrene, and they will soon 
tell you they consider Athene, the goddess who protects 
our state, as a mere name, an empty phantom. Some of 
these disciples believe in no gods at all, others in only one. 
Who knows whether it is not our putting up with such 
wickedness that has made our patroness angry and caused 
all our disasters ? 

"You don't think it likely a mere talker should have 
done all this harm ? It's all simple enough. His hair- 
splitting subtlety attracts all the best brains among our 
young men, just as surely as the Lydian stone does a bit 
of iron. These are the men he sets against religion and 
makes into enemies of their country. I exaggerate, do I ? 
Then listen to the facts, not to me. What greater mis- 
fortune have we had in all those years of war than the mad 
attempt to take Syracuse and conquer Sicily ? And who 
is responsible for that lunacy, which cost us thousands of 
our best citizens ? The 'fair son of Cleinias' (Socrates' 
complimentary name for him), who seduced the people into 


neglecting all the warnings of our wise and pious Nicias ; 
yes, that favourite disciple Alcibiades, who also had a share 
in the impious mutilation of the Hermae, and in the 
insulting of the mysteries, and who finally went to Sparta 
and intrigued against his country from there. And that is 
not all. Just as Alcibiades destroyed our sea-power, Critias 
destroyed our internal peace. Certainly he had talent. 
But how did he use it ? In his tragedy ' Sisyphus/ which 
was not allowed to be performed, but which went about 
from hand to hand in a great number of copies, he called 
belief in the gods an invention of clever men of old times. 
And his life was in tune with his teaching. While here, 
he was the people's worst enemy. In banishment, he 
stirred up the Thessalian peasants to revolt against their 
masters. And after his return what havoc he and his crew 
made in the city ! And again I ask Where did Critias get 
his fine principles from, he and his gang ? They were all 
of them ' companions ' of Socrates. But let him rest in 
peace, he and his cousin Charmides, both of whom fell 
fighting against the people. Enough of him. But let us 
not forget his great-nephew Plato, another favourite of the 
sophist, who does nothing but make speeches running 
down our ancient and glorious constitution and the 
sovereignty of the people. Only the other day I heard 
him deliver himself of the remarkable sentiment that 
things will never be better till the philosophers are rulers 
or rulers philosophers. Perhaps he too will go abroad 
some day to seek his ideal, just as his contemporary, the 
son of the knight Grylus, has lately done. Haven't you 
heard that Xenophon, instead of serving his own country, 
has preferred to go to Asia to Cyrus the Persian pretender, 
the same Cyrus who favoured our enemies, the Lacedae- 
monians, so greatly ? And who do you suppose it was that 
encouraged him to consult the Delphic oracle, and take its 
permission to go over to the national enemy ? Who else 
but his intimate friend, the grey-headed old wiseacre with 
the Silenus-face and the everlasting ironical smile. It's 
about time to put a spoke in his wheel. You think we 
might let the old cinder burn itself out ; that it won't light 


any more bonfires in young heads ? Perhaps not. But 
think of the example. What will all the young set do 
when they see their chief going on with his work to the 
end undisturbed, and ending his days in peace and honour ? 
The affair would be simple enough if the Areopagus had 
not lost its old rights ; it would just order him, fair and 
square, to let the young men alone. But now there's 
nothing for it but to have Socrates up before the jurors. 
And one of our best men, Anytus, who was once a rich 
manufacturer, but has sacrificed the best part of his 
property in his country's cause, has actually taken the 
matter up, and intends to lay an indictment against him. 
Once let this be given out in the King Archon's court, and 
we shall soon see the old man follow the example of 
Anaxagoras and Protagoras. It won't cost him many tears 
to leave his scolding Xanthippe ; he will take himself off 
and end his days at Corinth, or Thebes, or possibly at 
Megara, where they say he has plenty of devoted friends. 
But let him go where he likes ; Anytus will show the same 
tireless energy as when he fought with Thrasybulus against 
the aristocrats, and he will not rest till he has seen the 
thing through. They say he has already made sure of two 
good helpers, Lycon the orator and Meletus the poet, who 
will very likely get more glory out of this affair than out of 
his trilogy on CEdipus. What could he have been think- 
ing of to go and challenge comparison with the incompar- 
able Sophocles, or even with Euripides, with whom he has 
little in common beyond the smooth-brushed hair hanging 
down over his cheeks ? His hawk nose, his stubby beard, 

his leanness But here am I standing talking, and the 

flag on the Senate-house flying already. I must be off 
and get to my place in the council if I want my day's 
wage. Socrates isn't going to lose me my drachma on the 
top of his other crimes." 

Events did not wholly fulfil the predictions of our 
worthy councillor. Anytus, indeed, whom Plato represents 
in the " Meno " as a fierce hater of the sophists, led on by 
his own zeal and backed up by his supporters, did not fail 
to bring in an indictment, which ran as follows : " Socrates 


is guilty because he does not acknowledge the gods which 
the State acknowledges, but introduces other new divi- 
nities ; he is further guilty because he corrupts the youth. 
Punishment demanded : Death." But the accused, against 
whom no warrant had been issued, falsified the expectations 
of both friend and foe by obeying the summons to appear. 

2. It was a fine spring morning in the year 399 B.C. 
The dewdrops glittered brightly as on other days in the 
cups of the anemones, the violets shed their wonted 
fragrance. But that day's sun was not to reach its 
meridian height before an unholy deed had been accom- 
plished. It was not a holiday in the legal calendar. Great 
numbers of Athenians, for the most part aged and of 
slender means, had risen early that morning. They desired 
to do service as jurors, for which office they were qualified 
by their more than thirty years of life, their unspotted 
record, and the taking of the juror's oath. Ignorant what 
tasks awaited them, they betook themselves, armed with 
their jurors' tablets, to the office in the market-place where 
the lots were drawn. There they were distributed among 
the different courts, and before it was yet well light were 
on their way to their destinations, each carrying a staff 
which he would find matched in colour by the lintel of the 
entrance-door. Arrived there, they exchanged their staves 
for tokens, the production of which at the end of the day's 
proceedings entitled them to their fee of three obols (four- 
pence-halfpenny) each. 

Five hundred and one of these jurors had drawn a 
fateful lot. When the wicket closed behind them they 
were informed that they were well and truly to try the 
cause of Meletus (for it was in his name that the indict- 
ment was laid) and Socrates. As the charge was one of 
impiety, it was the King Archon, an official chosen every 
year by lot, who had conducted the preliminary inquiry, 
and who now presided over the trial. The jurors took 
their seats on long benches covered with matting ; accusers 
and accused faced them on two adjacent platforms. Out- 
side the bar stood a numerous audience. There might be 
seen the massive brow of Plato, then a young man of eight 


and twenty, Plato's brother Adeimantus, the haggard 
Critobulus and his father Crito, Apollodorus with his 
stern and penetrating gaze, accompanied by his brother 
yEantodorus. The elegant and fashionable Aristippus can 
hardly have been absent, or the more rugged figures of the 
Boeotians Simmias, Cebes, and Phaedondas, or the curly- 
headed, young, and beautiful Phaedo, or Antisthenes, his 
resolute face framed in shaggy hair. 

The proceedings began with an incense-offering and a 
prayer pronounced by the herald. The clerk of the court 
read the indictment and the pleadings in reply. The 
president then invited the representatives of the prosecu- 
tion to ascend the tribune. Meletus spoke first, with 
strong emphasis on his patriotic motives, and with no 
little display of rhetorical art ; but his speech was not a 
success. Anytus and Lycon, who followed him, were more 
effective. The former disclaimed all personal animosity 
against the accused. He would have been well pleased, 
he declared, if Socrates had disobeyed the summons and 
left the country. But now that he had put in an appear- 
ance, an acquittal was undesirable, because it would 
encourage the disciples to follow their master's example. 
These " pupils " of Socrates and their various misdoings 
figured largely in the accuser's speeches. Of the evidence 
adduced by the prosecution we know nothing. It was 
now the turn of Socrates. He spoke, amid frequent and 
violent interruptions from Meletus, who was exasperated 
by his rhetorical failure, in simple, artless style. His 
speech was an improvisation, or was intended to resemble 
one. It was characterized by earnestness and dignity, by 
shrewdness and wit, by irony of the highest order, by 
absolute self-possession, and by the disdainful omission 
of all appeal to the indulgence or compassion of the judges. 
Apparently it made some impression, for when the jurors 
went to the tribune to deposit their voting-counters in the 
two urns which stood ready to receive them, it was found 
that the counters with holes in the centre, which stood for 
acquittal, were only thirty short of those with a thick axle 
through them. 


The proceedings now turned on the assignment of a 
penalty. In this and similar cases, the accused had to 
propose an alternative punishment to the one demanded 
by the prosecution. Obviously this alternative proposal 
stood more or less chance of acceptance according to the 
submissiveness of the defendant and the magnitude of 
the penalty. In both points Socrates sorely disappointed 
the expectations of the favourable portion of the jurors. 
It was only with extreme reluctance, and after expressly 
declaring that he was yielding to the pressure of friends 
who, with Plato at their head, offered themselves as sureties 
for him, that he proposed to pay the modest fine of three 
thousand drachmas. At the same time, he protested in 
emphatic language, such as the representatives of the 
sovereign people were not accustomed to have addressed 
to them, against the justice of the verdict which had been 
recorded. The result was a great increase in the hostile 
majority. No fewer than 360 votes were cast for the 
penalty of death. 

3. We have endeavoured to extract from Plato's im- 
mortal description those facts as to whose historical truth 
there can be no doubt. The " Apology " is not a verbatim 
report. Even the externalities of judicial procedure are 
described in a manner which suggests the adaptation of 
the truth to the exigencies of style. There is at least one 
palpable instance of this. Plato makes Socrates announce 
his intention of calling a witness for the defence ; this 
witness is not heard of again. In all the forensic speeches 
of Attic orators which have been preserved to us, though 
each of them is reported as the continuous utterance of a 
single speaker, the examination of a witness is indicated 
by a formula of citation addressed to him, and the paren- 
thetic insertion of the word " deposition," just as in other 
cases the reading of an extract from the statute-book is 
indicated by a similar use of the word " law." Plato adopts 
a different plan. Here, as elsewhere, he is unwilling to 
follow a set pattern ; perhaps, too, he wishes to avoid all 
appearance of having aimed at exhaustiveness and minute 
accuracy. From the single instance, to which we have 


alluded, of discrepancy between promise and performance, 
it seems only fair to assume that similar liberties have 
been taken in other particulars. For example, it does not 
appear to us very probable that the brother of Chaerephoti, 
the above-mentioned witness for the defence, can have 
been the only witness called in the course of the whole 
trial. And in point of fact, there is a passage in the first 
speech of Socrates from which this conjecture receives 
strong confirmation. It is the passage where Socrates 
challenges Meletus to repair his former omission, and call 
as witnesses for the prosecution the fathers and brothers, 
there present in court, of the young men alleged to have 
been corrupted. They would, he says, be sure to give 
testimony in exactly the opposite sense to that expected 
of them, and would accord him their unanimous and 
enthusiastic support. This support is so strongly insisted 
on, and its probative force discussed at such length, that 
we cannot but conjecture that something more than 
a hypothetical incident is referred to. In other words, 
Plato has made use of this artifice, for stylistic or personal 
reasons, in order to avoid mentioning such evidence for the 
defence as actually was given in the course of the trial. 
But it is necessary to consider Socrates' speeches a little 
more closely and examine into their correspondence with 

There is not the slightest ground for doubting that 
Plato reproduces the genuine and original tone of Socrates' 
speeches. And the same may be said of the spirit in 
which the defence was conducted. Deviation from the 
historical truth in either of these respects could not be 
justified on the score of artistic freedom ; it would have 
been an offence against art and duty alike. Moreover, the 
spirit and purpose of the defence is in the best possible 
harmony with all we know of the historical Socrates, as 
well as with the situation created by the indictment. No 
one would expect to find that Socrates had been anxious 
to save his life at any and every cost. But, on the other 
hand, nothing warrants us in assuming that he was reso- 
lute to die, either from fear of the infirmities of age or 


from a desire to crown his career by martyrdom. The 
truth seems rather to be that life had no value for him 
unless he might be at liberty to live as he had always done, 
and to practise unhindered the peculiar calling he had 
chosen for himself. Within the limits thus indicated he 
was ready, as we learn from the " Apology," to make the 
substantial concession implied by his offer to submit to a 
fine. But from this position he is not to be moved so much 
as a hair's breadth ; he will hear of no compromise ; even 
the idea of a tacit agreement is repulsive to him. It can- 
not be denied that the course he took diminished the 
chances in his favour. But that it absolutely destroyed 
them is disproved by the smallness of the majority by 
which he was found guilty. There is one objection which 
may be raised, not without plausibility, against this view 
an objection drawn from the defiant tone of the second 
speech of Socrates. 

" I am conscious of no guilt. Not only do I deserve no 
punishment, but I feel myself worthy of the highest distinction 
it is in the power of the State to bestow maintenance in the 

Certainly a convicted prisoner who uses this language 
seems to court rather than avoid the threatened penalty of 
death. But this utterance must be judged by the context. 
It immediately precedes the not inconsiderable concession 
contained in the proposal of an alternative punishment. If 
Socrates' strong and well-founded feeling of self-respect 
was not to be wounded by this proposal, and if no colour 
was to be given to the idea that he was accepting an 
implied bargain the judges to forego the death-penalty, 
the accused to give up the practice of his calling if 
Socrates was to provide against all such misapprehension, 
and at the same time avoid striking a heavy blow at his 
own dignity, it was necessary to redress the balance by a 
piece of self-assertion rising as much above the general 
level of the speech, as, in consenting to a penalty, he fell 
below it. 


If we read the speeches for the defence with due atten- 
tion, we cannot but admire the extraordinary display of 
forensic skill by which they are characterized, in spite of 
their apparent artlessness and simplicity of arrangement. 
To the main accusation that of religious heterdoxy it is 
clear that there was no valid answer. On the other hand, 
much had been laid to the charge of Socrates by the comic 
writers, especially Aristophanes, which could not only be 
truthfully denied, but could easily be shown to rest on 
confusion and misunderstanding. Accordingly, the refuta- 
tion of these vague charges is placed in the forefront of 
the defence, and their substance ingeniously condensed 
into a formula of indictment to which precedence is given 
over that actually employed by the prosecution. The 
latter, too, is treated with considerable freedom. It is not 
quoted with complete verbal accuracy, as we see from a 
comparison of its authentic wording, which is preserved 
elsewhere, and as is indicated by the use of the phrase, 
"something of this sort." The object of the inaccuracy is 
to bring into greater prominence the part of the indictment 
which could be more easily met the charge of corrupting 
the youth. The defence on the main count of impiety 
is handled on the principle, as old as Homer, of placing 
weak troops in the centre and supporting them on both 
sides by the more efficient portions of the army. Thus 
Socrates reserves the strongest argument in his favour, the 
appeal to the favourable disposition towards himself of 
the relatives of the young men said to have been corrupted, 
for the close of his speech. And in the theoretical treat- 
ment of the same charge we can trace the hand of a skilled 
advocate. We do not refer to the argument valid for 
Socrates and Plato, but a transparent fallacy for us that 
no one can intentionally make those with whom he comes 
into contact worse, because he would himself suffer the 
consequences of their deterioration. If that were so, there 
could be no thieves' academies, no fathers who bring up 
their sons to dishonesty, no mothers who devote their 
daughters to vice. In reality the profit which he who 
leads another astray derives, or hopes to derive, from 


his pernicious work may often outweigh all prospective 
injury to himself ; or, at any rate, influence the will more 
strongly because of its immediate nearness. Besides, the 
injury to character may be, or appear to be, partial, and 
such as not to affect the relations of the two parties. To 
Socrates, however, and to his followers the assertion in 
question was a true corollary of the more comprehensive 
doctrine that no one does wrong of his own free will, and 
that the virtues are one. It is not here, however, that we 
recognize the master hand of the advocate, but in the 
passage where Meletus a man to whom popular favour 
was of the first importance, especially in the law courts 
is driven step by step to the absurd admission that all the 
Athenians, with the exception of Socrates, are experts in 
education and busily occupied in promoting the moral 
improvement of the young. 

We have thus abundant cause to admire the technical 
skill of the author be he Socrates or Plato of the defence. 
But our astonishment grows when we extend our survey, 
and, instead of regarding single passages, view the whole. 
Whether jurors or mere readers were to be influenced, the 
problem attacked was how to make the work of Socrates 
comprehensible to men whose grade of culture made it 
impossible for them to appreciate it in its true and original 
form. What strikes us first of all is the fact that there is 
in these speeches not a syllable of what, on the unimpeach- 
able testimony of Aristotle, was the central feature of 
Socrates' activity the investigation of concepts. His 
dialectic had two sides, which, to use a phrase coined by 
Grote, we may call the positive and the negative arm of 
his philosophy. To the great mass of his contemporaries 
the second of these two was much better known than the 
first. A master of the arts of criticism and debate, always 
ready with captious argument and insidious irony, always 
able to overwhelm his opponent with shame and confusion, 
such, with the general public, was the unenviable reputa- 
tion of Socrates ; such was the character in which he had 
made enemies without number. But the " Apology " 
invests the unpopular figure of the controversialist with the 


glamour of a religious mission. His passionately devoted 
friend Chaerephon, now no more, went to Delphi, as his 
brother will presently depose, and received from the oracle 
the response that no man was wiser than Socrates. The 
latter was thrown into the deepest perplexity by this 
deliverance of the god, which stood in such sharp con- 
trast with his own consciousness of ignorance. Surely 
Apollo could not lie ; it became his duty to discover 
the hidden meaning of the divine pronouncement. It 
was a task from which there was no escape ; hence his 
"wanderings," his attempt to probe the wisdom of all whom 
the world held wise statesmen, poets, craftsmen. This 
pilgrimage had sown the seeds of hatred against him, and 
was the true origin of the present indictment. He had 
himself learnt from it the lesson that all other men were, 
like himself, destitute of real wisdom, but, in thinking 
themselves wise, suffered from a delusion from which he 
was free. This, then, was the purport of the voice from 
Delphi. The wisdom of man, so the Pythia meant to 
say, is but a pitiful thing ; those are in the best case who 
Socrates, for example are fully aware of their lack of 
wisdom. Before we consider the effectiveness of this plea, 
we must examine into its foundation in fact. There are 
here two things which must be kept strictly apart the 
response of the Delphic oracle itself, and its effect on the 
career of Socrates. Of the historical reality of the former 
we do not think there can be the slightest doubt. No one 
could credit Plato with the unprincipled folly of attempting 
to pass off an invention of his own for evidence given at 
a recent trial, with the object of influencing present and 
future opinion upon an event of great importance. But 
though the fact is clear of doubt, it is not easy to explain 
it in any satisfactory manner. Can it have been that the 
wholesome influence of Socrates' discourses had been re- 
cognized at Delphi, and esteemed so highly that it was 
thought advisable to help him by a declaration in his 
favour? Or had the sympathies of the aristocratically 
disposed priests of Delphi, been won by his scorn for the 
helplessness of popular assemblies and the democratic 


government of ignorance ? Or was it the deep reverence 
of Socrates for Apollo and his sanctuary, which at a time 
of religious doubt seemed to the guardians of the oracle 
worthy of a grateful recompense ? Those are questions 
we shall never be able to answer. One thing, however, is 
sure : the use made of the oracle in the " Apology " is un- 
historical. It is represented as having given the starting 
impulse to the whole of Socrates' public activity. But, 
before this activity began, how could anything be known 
of him at Delphi ? He owed his reputation to his work, 
and it is in the highest degree improbable that the oracle 
should have admitted the claims of a totally unknown 
aspirant to wisdom. Nor is it conceivable that his dialectic 
genius was first roused into activity by that message. As 
a matter of history, it is not true that his dialectic was 
exclusively devoted to the purpose here assigned to it. 
But the question still remains undecided whether it is Plato 
or Socrates that here speaks to us. For in glancing back, 
even over one's own past, it is possible to fall into an error 
of perspective. It is possible to ascribe to a particular 
experience a significance which it did not possess, and an 
influence it never exerted. In this case, however, the more 
probable assumption is that Plato has deliberately em- 
ployed a skilled artifice ; that is, if any weight is to be 
allowed to the argument from effect to cause. For the 
effect of this presentation of the case might well have 
been very considerable. " This, then, is the truth," so 
might many an unsuspecting reader exclaim, " about that 
much-talked-of cross-questioning of Socrates. That in 
which we could see nothing but petulant malice, offensive 
and shameless quibbling, was in reality the outcome of 
profound modesty, a protest against excessive praise, and, 
before everything, a pious attempt to understand and 
justify a divine message." We are able to give a much 
more decided verdict on that portion of the defence which 
is devoted to the positive arm of the Socratic philosophy. 
Here, as we observe with not a little surprise, the apology 
is in contradiction not only with the estimate of Socrates 
formed by all his contemporaries, but, which is much more 


important, with the central feature of his ethical teaching, 
as known to us on unimpeachable testimony. One portion 
of the " Apology " not only places in the foreground that 
testing of men's wisdom which Socrates undertook in con- 
sequence of the Delphic oracle, but makes it fill up his 
entire life. Another portion, however, of the same speech 
presents us with a totally different picture. Socrates still 
describes himself as devoted to " the service of the god," 
but the similarity of phrase conceals an entire change of 
meaning. Socrates now assumes the role of an exhorter 
and a preacher of virtue, one who addresses all he meets 
foreigners and fellow-countrymen alike and tries to per- 
suade them to take thought for their highest interests, to 
leave the struggle for honour and wealth and devote them- 
selves to the well-ordering of their own souls. We need not 
dwell on the improbability that such a Socrates should 
have been the original of the Socrates of the comic stage. 
It is enough to point out that all we know of his positive 
ethical teaching is in contradiction with this account of 
him. The doctrine " Virtue is knowledge ' is quite irre- 
concilable with it. He who knows what is good, does it : 
he needs no exhortation ; it is vain to address him in the 
language of persuasion or encouragement ; instruction and 
the clearing up of his ideas are alone of use. We cannot, 
therefore, accept the passage in question as an adequate 
version of the facts. But it is just as far from being an 
arbitrary invention. Plato has substituted a " protreptic ' 
purpose, as has recently been remarked, for the " protreptic ' 
effect of Socrates' discourses. More exactly, what Plato 
makes out to be the direct result of conscious and delibe- 
rate effort, was in truth an indirect result, sometimes aimed 
at by Socrates and sometimes not. For the charm of his 
talk often fascinated even those who resisted it, diverted 
their interest from the externals of life, and induced them 
to occupy themselves with the highest and deepest matters. 
But that which produced these effects was formally an 
investigation of concepts. A writer who saw in the clearing 
up and deepening of conceptions an important aid to moral 
progress, and who wished to impart this conviction of his 


to men who were unable to understand the connexion, 
might well light on the plan of suddenly metamorphosing 
the analyzer of morality into a preacher of morality. 
Plato here sacrifices accuracy of facts to accuracy of 
impression. He presents us with an adaptation of the 
truth, not with the truth itself, which, seen through the 
distorting medium of a limited intelligence, would have 
appeared in the shape of gross error. His procedure 
resembles that of a maker of telescopes who corrects the 
action of one lens by the addition of a second of equal but 
opposite curvature. And if, in either case, the correction 
turns out to be excessive, as may easily happen, the necessary 
imperfection of all things human must be held responsible. 
4. The foregoing considerations preclude us from re- 
garding the "Apology" as a perfectly faithful reproduction 
of the speeches actually delivered in court. With the 
means at our disposal, it is impossible to establish a clear 
division between what is truth and what is fiction. But 
there are two points which should not be forgotten. No 
ancient author saw any harm in transforming or embellish- 
ing the speeches of his hero, or in bringing them nearer to 
his own ideal of perfection. In Plato's political theories, 
the "useful lie," employed as medicine, plays a considerable 
part ; and it would be strange if this principle had not 
affected his practice as an author, or if he had allowed the 
flow of his eloquence to be checked by scruples regarding 
verbal truth. On the other hand, neither he nor any of 
the companions of Socrates would have thought it other 
than a disloyal and presumptuous act to ignore altogether 
the actual speech of the master in his own defence, and 
substitute for it newly invented matter. We are thus 
compelled to recognize the coexistence of truth and fiction 
in the "Apology," and to renounce all hope of completely 
separating them. All that we can maintain with any 
confidence is that the artistic structure of the whole work 
is due to Plato, and that the second speech, which is both 
the shortest of the three and the most closely bound up 
with the course of the trial, contains the greatest proportion 
of genuine Socratic property. 


In one sense, perhaps in the highest sense, the whole 
of the " Apology " may be called the property of Socrates. 
The intellectual and artistic qualities of this work are no 
doubt important enough, and we have been obliged to 
devote considerable attention to them. But more important 
still is the greatness of soul which gives colour and co- 
herence to the whole marvellous creation. This is still 
more characteristic of Socrates than of Plato. The mixture 
or rather the intimate fusion of sober sense and fervid 
enthusiasm, the disdain of all externals, the faith in the 
victorious might of reasoned thought, the firm conviction 
that the " good man " is proof against all strokes of fortune, 
the cheerful confidence with which such a man goes his 
way and suffers neither fears nor hopes to divert him from 
the fulfilment of his task, all this has made the "Apology" 
a lay breviary of strong and free spirits, which even now, 
after twenty-three centuries, moves men's souls and kindles 
their hearts. It is one of the most virile books in the 
whole of literature ; few others are so well adapted to foster 
the manly virtue of self-possession. It is difficult to place 
in the right light the relation of this work to religion. 
There is much concerning the gods in it ; but of servile 
feeling towards the gods, of fear of them, or SetffiSaifiovia 
of any kind, there is as little as in the didactic poem of 
Lucretius. The divine voices whose strains reach our ears 
are in truth a chorus, and they accompany, but do not 
overpower, the leading part, the personality and the con- 
science of Socrates. The characteristic quality of the work 
is manifested most clearly in the final speech, delivered by 
Socrates after sentence of death has been passed. This is 
the portion of the work which we should naturally be most 
ready to regard as an addition of purely Platonic origin ; 
yet it is the part in which the true Socratic tone is best 
preserved. The question of immortality is raised, but left 
perfectly undecided. The two possibilities are discussed : 
either there is a continued existence of the dead, or death 
is like a deep, dreamless sleep ; but neither alternative is 
accorded any preference. On whichever side the reality may 
lie, in neither case is death to be called an evil. And that 


is not all. In the passage where the possibility of a future 
existence is faced, the picture of the life to come is stripped 
equally of its gloomy terrors and of its more than earthly 
raptures. There is nothing here of those joys of heaven 
or those torments of hell which Plato describes so often in 
his other writings. 

The imperturbable composure which marked Socrates 
during his life accompanies him in his passage to the 
world beyond. There, in spirit, he consorts with the 
semi-divine heroes of the early world as with his own 
friends and equals ; he cross - examines them, and 
promises himself no little pleasure and instruction from 
their replies. With the like genial humour he congratu- 
lates himself on the fact that, in Hades at least, freedom 
of thought cannot be a crime visited with capital punish- 
ment. How to meet death cheerfully is a lesson which 
has been learnt from the "Apology," even by those who 
do not believe that they thereby enter into the joys of 

It is possible that the example of Socrates may have 
produced even greater effects than his teaching. Every 
one knows that the execution of the sentence was delayed 
by the necessity of awaiting the arrival of the sacred ship 
from Delos, and that the condemned prisoner employed 
the respite in continuing his accustomed conversations with 
his disciples, and partly in versifying the fables of yEsop. 
This latter task he undertook out of deference to a divine 
command which, like many others before it, had been 
communicated to him in a dream. He was bidden to 
occupy himself with "music," that is to say, with some 
form of art. Perhaps here too we should see a suggestion 
emerging from the depths of the subconscious (cf. p. 88), 
and bidding him strive towards perfection by supplement- 
ing a deficiency of his natural endowment. How, when 
his last hour approached, he sent away his lamenting 
relatives, comforted his weeping disciples, exchanged a 
few friendly words with the jailor, and then quietly and 
calmly drained the cup of hemlock, all this forms a picture 
which it would be wasted labour to paint anew, for it 


stands, in colours ever fresh and vivid, in the pages of 
Plato's " Phaedo." 

5. As long as men live on the earth that day's trial 
will never be forgotten. Never will the voice of mourning 
cease for the man who first gave his life to the cause of 
free inquiry. Must we also regard him as a victim of 
fanatical intolerance ? On this question opinions are still 
divided. There are some who never weary of denouncing 
that verdict as a judicial murder of the worst type, as an 
ineffaceable stain on the blazon of the Athenian state. 
Others, less numerous, take the part of the " law-abiding ' 
as against the "revolutionary," and greedily seize on 
everything which seems to detract from the greatness of 
Socrates. We, for our part, are convinced that the fatal 
event was only in a small degree the outcome of prejudice 
and misunderstanding ; that to a far greater extent and in 
decisive measure it was the issue of a fully justified conflict. 
Hegel, to our thinking, has rightly stated the merits of the 
case. Two views of life, one might almost say two phases 
of humanity, strove for mastery on that day. The move- 
ment inaugurated by Socrates was one destined to confer 
incalculable benefits on the human race ; for the Athens 
of that day it was a doubtful blessing. The right of the 
community to assert itself and to combat disorganizing 
influences was in conflict with the right of a great person- 
ality to open new paths and enter upon them in bold 
defiance of rigid traditions and all the menaces of authority. 
This right of the individual will be doubted by far fewer 
among those to whom these pages are addressed than the 
antagonistic right of the State. ' Was it not entirely un- 
worthy of a civilized and highly cultivated people" thus 
we can imagine many a reader exclaiming " to violate in 
such gross fashion the right of free speech ? " We answer 
that the right of free speech must be reckoned, because of 
its beneficent consequences, among the most precious 
possessions of mankind ; but that it has nowhere and never 
existed absolutely without limit. In our own century it 
has found no warmer-hearted or more enlightened defender 
than John Stuart Mill. Yet this ardent advocate of 


individual freedom is unable to avoid recognizing limits 
restrictive of it. 

" No one pretends " so runs a passage of that magnificent 
book, " On Liberty " -" that actions should be as free as opinions. 
On the contrary, even opinions lose their immunity when the 
circumstances in which they are expressed are such as to con- 
stitute their expression a positive instigation to some mischievous 
act. An opinion that corn-dealers are starvers of the poor, or 
that private property is robbery, ought to be unmolested when 
simply circulated through the press, but may justly incur punish- 
ment when delivered orally to an excited mob assembled before 
the house of a corn-dealer, or when handed about among the 
same mob in the form of a placard." 

And how, we may ask, if the contents of the placard 
are made public in a newspaper, the day before the 
meeting ? Or if the mob is not yet assembled, but may 
assemble at any moment ? It is plain to all that the line 
here drawn is a fluctuating one, which varies according to 
the magnitude and the proximity of a threatened danger, 
and according to the efficacy and trustworthiness of the 
means of defence. In fact, no community, however pene- 
trated its members may have been by a sense of the value 
and importance of free theoretic discussion, has gone so 
far as to allow such freedom always and in all circumstances, 
including those in which its vital interests were at stake. 
And here we must remember the weakness of ancient 
states. Those little city-republics were weak in numbers, 
and doubly weak in the necessity they were under of 
guarding against the ever-threatening danger of attack by 
their neighbours. And that which in itself was an element 
of strength, the homogeneity of the population, might 
easily, from our present point of view, become an element 
of weakness. The diffusion of doctrines dangerous to the 
State may go a long way in our modern communities of 
large and moderate size before the decisive step from 
theory to practice becomes anything but a remote possi- 
bility. A considerable fraction of the population may 
be permeated by such doctrines, while other important 



sections of it provide a powerful counterpoise. Consider 
the contrast between the agricultural class and the bour- 
geoisie, between the bourgeoisie and the proletariate. The 
contrasts of this type which existed in ancient Athens had 
lost much of their original sharpness through the wearing 
action of time and the efforts of great statesmen directed 
to this very end. The country population was subject to 
town influences. It was only in the not very frequent 
case of law-revision proper that the denies, or districts, 
were invited to anything like independent co-operation. 
The fate of Athens was decided daily on the Pnyx. That 
the continuance of a state and its institution depends in 
the last resort on the loyalty of the citizens is, of course, a 
universal truth. But it may be affirmed in a still more 
literal sense of ancient states. Any shock to the founda- 
tion of the State was immediately felt. It travelled un- 
hindered from the base to the summit of the edifice. There 
were no intermediate elements to deaden the blow. The 
interests of the State lacked the protection afforded by the 
hereditary transmission of the supreme magistracy, by an 
organized military power and a system of public depart- 
ments. Athens possessed no royal family, no standing army, 
no bureaucracy. All the greater was the need that the 
State should be able to count on the loyalty of the citizens. 
These consisted, as always and everywhere, of a small 
minority of leaders and a great majority of led. To the 
former category belonged chiefly those who could use most 
skilfully the weapon of the spoken word. This superiority, 
again, was acquired or enhanced by dialectical and rhetorical 
training. It is thus very intelligible that a master of dialectic 
who for several decades exercised a continuous influence on 
many of the most ambitious and the most capable of the 
rising generation, and who was at the same time the most 
original thinker of his age on ethics and politics, should 
become a political factor of no small importance, and a 
great power for good or evil. 

That the influence of Socrates was regarded by wide 
circles of men as an influence for evil, is a fact which must 
be regarded as the common result of several different 


causes. The shadow cast by Alcibiades and Critias, who 
grievously injured their country, upon the figure of their 
master may perhaps at first sight seem an unfortunate 
accident. For Xenophon is probably right in maintaining 
that, with Critias at least, the chief motive for seeking the 
society of Socrates was a desire for political power, and 
that in what relates to the growth of character neither he 
nor Alcibiades received any deep or lasting impression 
from him. But, apart from this, it is intelligible enough 
that among the many young men of high aims who chose 
this particular form of education, some few were found 
whose subsequent careers were disastrous to the State. 
That which might seem better to deserve the name of an 
unhappy accident is the circumstance that among those 
who did the State signal service there were none who had 
sat at the feet of Socrates. But the causes of this lie 
deeper, and are of twofold nature. The reader is familiar 
with the fact that Socrates was no friend of the existing 
democratic constitution, which did not harmonize with his 
doctrine of the supremacy of the intellect. Xenophon 
quotes the " accuser " (probably the Anytus of the work 
written by the litterateur Polycrates several years after 
the trial) as bringing the following charge, among others, 
against Socrates : " Socrates has made his companions 
despisers of the existing laws." To this charge Xenophon 
has no relevant reply to make. He merely denies that 
the master ever incited his disciples to "violent" attacks 
on the constitution. And there is a still more important 
point. It was not merely to the order of things then 
prevailing in their country towards which the friends 
of Socrates maintained an attitude of aloofness or un- 
friendliness, but towards that country itself as well. In 
this connexion Xenophon, by his life, provided more 
material for the accusation against his teacher than he 
was able to destroy by the whole of his writings on 
the side of the defence. And just as Xenophon was 
much in Persia and Sparta, Plato was almost more at 
home at Syracuse than in his native city. Antisthenes 
and Aristippus deliberately shunned public life, and in 


the school of the former the " world-citizenship ' of the 
wise man was preached in plain terms and made an article 
of faith. That the disciples were here following in their 
master's footsteps, no one will deny. 

Nor are we left entirely to conjecture. It was matter 
of universal astonishment that, in spite of his great gifts, 
Socrates abstained from serving the State. Plato repre- 
sents him in the " Apology " as urging in his defence the 
strange plea that " if a man really wishes to fight against 
injustice, his place is in private, not in public life." And 
this judgment is supported on the only possible grounds, 
the alleged uselessness of all such effort, the hopelessness 
of the political situation, the incorrigibility of the multitude. 
For this is the only possible meaning of Socrates' assertion 
that if he had taken an active interest in politics, he could 
not have reached an advanced age, that he would again 
and again have been compelled to risk his life in a conflict 
with the people from which the latter would have derived 
no advantage. And this, be it observed, is the very same 
people which served as model for Pericles' funeral oration. 
Surely, when this people had bowed beneath defeat and 
had been purified by suffering, it could not have been 
truly termed unmanageable material in the hands of a 
benevolent and wise artificer of states. It is difficult to 
think of these things without a feeling of profound regret. 
One of the noblest and most teachable of peoples is 
abandoned by a group of its best men, who coldly turn 
their backs upon it and declare all efforts for its improve- 
ment to be so much lost labour. But instead of wasting 
time in regrets, let us endeavour to understand. That 
Socrates and his friends were lacking in true and heart- 
felt love of their home, is incontestable. But the explana- 
tion is not that Socrates was, as Frances Wright said to 
Bentham, though in a somewhat different sense, an 
" icicle ; " but that he was full of a different and a new 
ideal. "Knowledge" is not Athenian; "sober sense' 
is not Spartan ; " courage " is not Corinthian. Where 
anything and everything is haled before the bar of reason, 
where no tradition is respected as such, but everything 


is required to be justified by thought and reflexion, it 
is impossible that a local patriotism confined to a city 
of a few square miles should preserve all its ancient 
strength. Indifference towards that "corner of earth 
where fate had pitched one's body ' was bound to be 
the result (though the alleged Socratic saying we have 
just cited from Epictetus may be apocryphal) where 
preoccupation with universal humanity thrust everything 
else into the background. It was the fate of philosophy 
from the very first to exert a disintegrating influence 
upon national sentiments and institutions. The reader 
will remember the much-travelled, deep-thinking, old 
minstrel whose trenchant criticism made an incurable 
breach in Greek life. At the point we have now reached 
in our historical exposition the contrast between philo- 
sophic criticism and national ideals may be said to have 
been both deeper and more notorious. It was the old 
narrowness, the old homeliness, the old warmth and 
strength of Greek life, which the philosophers now 
threatened to destroy. The morality of the understanding 
was quickly followed by the cult of world-citizenship. 
Behind the latter we descry a world-empire, and behind 
that again a world-religion. 

Not that we have any desire to suggest that in the 
spring of the year 399, Anytus, Lycon, and Meletus looked 
so far ahead as all this. But if they had their doubts as 
to the affection of Socrates and his friends for their country 
and its constitution, if they saw in his reasonings and 
investigations of concepts a danger to the national religion 
and the whole national existence, and if they therefore 
resolved, at a particularly critical moment in Athenian 
history, to silence the spokesman of the new tendency, 
we ought neither to be greatly astonished, nor yet to 
attribute to these men any unusual depravity of heart 
or limitation of intellect. What they wished to do 
was to silence Socrates, nothing more and nothing less. 
In a modern state such an object might have been much 
more easily attained. The deprivation of a professorship, 
the institution of a disciplinary inquisition, or, in states 


of more restricted liberty, an inhibition by the police, 
an expulsion, or an administrative transference ; any one 
of these means would have served the purpose. But in 
Athens it was otherwise. None of these methods was 
admissible ; nothing but a criminal trial could meet the 
situation. And the only handle which the law provided 
was a prosecution for impiety. The conservative spirit 
of the Athenian democracy had so far prevailed that the 
ancient and rigorous enactment, by which atheism was 
punishable with death, was not abrogated, but superseded 
by a more tolerant practice. We learn from Plato and 
Xenophon, who had no motive for misrepresentation, and 
would have greatly preferred to throw the whole responsi- 
bility for the fatal issue on the accusers and judges, that 
Socrates might easily have escaped death if he had liked. 
He was free not to appear before the court, and yet 
he appeared before it. He was free to propose the 
alternative penalty of exile, and there was every proba- 
bility that such a proposal would have been accepted. 
And even if he did not wish to do that, he was free to 
avoid the penalty of death if he would have modelled 
his behaviour to some slight extent on the regular custom 
of defendants, and not entirely disdained to appeal to the 
pity of his judges. And lastly, even after sentence had 
been pronounced, it would have been an easy matter for 
him to escape from custody. Full preparations had been 
made, as Plato informs us in the " Crito," to assist him in 
his flight. But he was made of sterner stuff. He was 
one of those whose mission it is to force the thoughts 
and feelings of men into new channels. He would 
consent to no compromise. His resolve was firm and un- 
alterable ; either he would continue to teach or he would 
cease to live. 

The stories which were told in later ages of the repent- 
ance of the Athenians, of a statue erected to Socrates, and 
of punishment meted out to his accusers, have long been 
recognized, chiefly on the ground of the chronological im- 
possibilities involved in them, as pure" fabrications. That 
to which the execution of Socrates really gave rise was a 


series of literary duels. The literary presentment by 
Polycrates of the case for the prosecution was followed by 
a reply from the pen of that industrious and talented writer 
of speeches, Lysias. The subject continued to be a favourite 
theme for rhetorical exercises down to the late Roman age, 
from which a specimen, the " Apology ' * of Libanius, has 
been preserved to us. But the predominant feeling of the 
Athenian people is clearly manifested by the circumstance 
that, after the lapse of more than half a century, the states- 
man and orator ^schines could hope to advance the cause 
which he was then promoting by addressing the assembled 
people in the following words : " Again, men of Athens, 
you put to death Socrates the sophist, because it was 
proved that Critias, one of the thirty destroyers of the 
democracy, had been educated by him." * 

The dead Socrates rose again, not only in the schools, 
but also in the writings of his disciples. They never 
wearied of introducing the person of their venerated master, 
visiting the market-place and the gymnasia, and holding 
converse with old and young, as had been his custom 
during life. Thus in very truth he continued to teach, 
even after he had ceased to live. 

We must now turn our attention to the motley host of 
the Socratics, with their divisions and subdivisions. We 
begin with a man of little significance as a thinker, but of 
great interest as a witness and an historical authority 

* " In Timarchum," delivered B.C. 345. 




i. XENOPHON possessed in rich measure the not unmixed 
blessing of personal beauty. It is a gift which, in the male 
sex, is apt to be associated with arrogance and self-com- 
placency. Nor did the "wondrously fair" son of Grylus 
escape this misfortune. He remained for the whole of his 
life a dilettante, in Goethe's sense of the word, that is, a 
man who is always venturing on tasks for which he is not 
fully equipped. We must, however, allow an exception in 
the case of one of the fields of his many-sided activity. 
Xenophon was an expert in sport, as a hunter and rider ; 
and the three minor writings which he devoted to his 
favourite pursuits (the works on hunting and riding, and 
the book entitled " The Captain of Cavalry ") are really 
the best that he ever produced. Here, where he least 
affects the title, he is most of a philosopher. His observa- 
tions on the psychology of animals, and the conclusions he 
drew from them, show much greater acumen than his dis- 
quisitions on philosophy and morals, or on history and 
politics. Further, the most valuable of the talents with 
which he was endowed, the gift of minute and accurate 
observation, here comes into play in the most delightful 
fashion. His love of nature, his simple and hearty joy in 
the doings of animals, make these works as agreeable 
reading as the best parts of his " CEconomicus," a book in 
which the quiet enjoyment of country life and labour pro- 
duces much the same refreshing and invigorating effect 
upon us as the smell of newly turned earth. 



Was it want of means or was it ambition that impelled 
him to leave these peaceful scenes and to enter upon a 
career of adventure ? Most probably both. He was still 
in the twenties when he left Athens ; he never returned, 
except, perhaps, to pay a flying visit, and he died abroad 
in advanced old age. At first he turned his face towards 
the East. Fame and riches might be sooner won there 
than in his native city. The long and harassing war had 
ended in defeat, and Athens had been immediately 
entangled in civic broils, in which Xenophon's party had 
been worsted. As it so happened, Cyrus, the younger 
brother of the Persian king Artaxerxes (Mnemon), a prince 
distinguished by great liberality, and possibly by other 
virtues, was at that moment raising mercenaries in Thrace 
and in Greece, with the view of contesting his brother's 
throne. By the good offices of a friend, Xenophon 
obtained an introduction to the Persian pretender at 
Sardis, and was received by him with the greatest friend- 

We do not learn what position was assigned him at the 
court and in the camp. Can it be true that he was only 
expected to give the philhellenic prince the pleasure of his 
society, and perhaps exchange repartees at the royal table 
with the " clever and beautiful " Aspasia, one of the prince's 
morganatic consorts ? Or was the Athenian's emphatic 
denial that he had ever undertaken to serve Cyrus in a 
military capacity only made because the Persian prince 
had recently been the consistent supporter of Sparta against 
Athens ? In any case, his connection with Cyrus did give 
rise to some doubts in his mind on this score. And the 

way in which he silenced these scruples reveals to us a not 
very pleasing side of his character. Socrates, with whom 
Xenophon was familiar, and whose advice he used to seek 
at every turn, gave expression to the doubts we have 
mentioned, and recommended him to consult the Delphic 
oracle. The disciple followed his master's counsel in a 
manner which very properly caused the latter grave dis- 
satisfaction. Instead of clearly stating what he designed 
to do, he inquired of the oracle which was the god from whom 


he might expect to obtain by prayer and sacrifice a successful 
issue of his undertaking. This device of concealment, 
which the pious Xenophon did not shrink from employing 
in face of the Pythian tripod, is one of which we may be 
sure he did not fail to make abundant use in his relations 
with men, and in particular with his readers. And the road 
from concealment to deception is terribly steep. We may 
learn this from a rapid glance through the most famous of 
Xenophon's books, his narrative of his Persian adventures. 

We know how that campaign speedily ended in disaster. 
Cyrus fell in the first battle he fought against his royal 
brother ; the Greek mercenaries were soon afterwards 
deprived of their commanders by a trick of the satrap 
Tissaphernes,and the leaderless host of the "Ten Thousand" 
began that retreat, famous for the bold and successful 
conquest of countless difficulties, of which Xenophon him- 
self wrote the history. The fresh, vivid, and graphic style 
of the narrative entitles this work to the highest praise. 
Moreover, it gives much valuable information on the 
manners and customs of the peoples through whose terri- 
tories the Greeks passed, generally fighting their way, on 
their homeward march ; and the lifelike vigour and the 
humour of the descriptions are truly delightful. 

Unfortunately, there is a dark as well as a bright side 
to the book. That a writer of memoirs should lay parti- 
cular emphasis on his own merit, that he should place 
his successes in a strong light and draw a veil over his 
failures, is, perhaps, not more than may be set down to 
ordinary human weakness. Of course, the man who writes 
contemporary history after this fashion sinks to a level of 
mediocrity far enough removed from all that is genuinely 
great in historical writing. But these and cognate faults 
attain, in Xenophon's " Anabasis," to a magnitude which is 
highly damaging to the character, not only of the historian, 
but of the man. In particular, he brings his own personality 
upon the stage in a manner which gives the impression of 
the most obtrusive self-glorification. Immediately after 
that dark day when the host of mercenaries was plunged 
in helpless confusion by the loss of its generals, Xenophon 


emerges from the obscurity in which, with the exception of 
two passing references, he has hitherto studiously shrouded 
himself. He now comes forward like the sun rising in his 
splendour to scatter the shades of night. An encouraging 
dream has instructed him upon his mission. In the early 
morning he summons together first the inner, then the 
outer circle of officers, to whom he offers himself as leader, 
and is actually chosen by them to take the place of one 
of the five murdered generals. He then dons the hand- 
somest accoutrements he can lay hands on observe his 
pride in his personal appearance, and his anxiety to make 
effective use of it and addresses the assembled army in 
a speech many pages long. Afterwards we have other 
speeches, reported with equal fulness, just as the first 
fateful dream is followed by another of the same kind. 

There is an art of deception which produces false im- 
pressions without the use of many false statements. Of 
this art Xenophon was a master. His narrative has given 
rise to a widespread opinion, held in ancient as well as 
modern times, that he was the leader of the Ten Thousand 
in their retreat. And yet Xenophon nowhere affirms this 
by so much as a single word. According to the account 
he has himself given, the army possessed a democratic 
constitution ; important decisions were arrived at by a show 
of hands, and, as to the executive power, Xenophon was 
always one among several generals ; the man who really was 
in sole command for a time was not he, but Cheirisophus 
the Spartan. It was only in the last phase of the under- 
taking, when the retreat from Asia had been effected, that 
the majority of the survivors entered the service of the 
Thracian prince Seuthes under Xenophon, who was not the 
first in command, but the most influential of the generals. 
But he shows such skill in the grouping of facts ; he con- 
trives with such logical consistency to ascribe to himself the 
initiative in every important resolution ; he places himself 
so persistently in the foreground of the narrative, that the 
reader imperceptibly receives an impression which in reality 
is in flat contradiction with the author's own words. And 
this impression is strengthened by a number of petty 


anecdotes such as are seldom related except of great men 
in positions of high authority, and scarcely ever by a great 
man of himself. A heavy snowfall surprises the army by 
night when encamped on the Armenian mountains ; men 
and beasts lie buried in the drifts ; Xenophon is the first to 
rise and warm himself by splitting wood ; others follow his 
example, presently light a fire, and thus save themselves 
and the rest from the imminent danger of freezing to death. 
Another time a foot-soldier in heavy marching order com- 
plains of the difficulty of climbing a toilsome hill ; Xenophon 
dismounts from his horse, thrusts the man out of the ranks, 
loads himself with his heavy equipment, and thus diverts 
the smouldering ill will of the company from the commander 
to the refractory comrade. Another artifice employed for 
the same purpose was the anonymous publication of his 
work. In his " Hellenica " Xenophon alludes to a descrip- 
tion of the expedition in question written by Themistogenes 
of Syracuse. From the earliest times there has never been 
any doubt that what he referred to was his own book, and 
that the pseudonym thus assumed by him was either a 
purely fictitious name, or one borne by some complaisant 
comrade in arms. That such precautions were neither 
superfluous nor wholly successful may be gathered from the 
remarkable fact that the historian Diodorus wrote a tolerably 
exhaustive account of the retreat of the Ten Thousand 
without once mentionmg the name of Xenophon till he 
came to the episode of Seuthes. Now, Diodorus, who wrote 
in the Augustan age, drew his materials from Ephorus, a 
younger contemporary of Xenophon, and both must have 
been familiar with the "Anabasis." Their silence is thus 
deeply significant. It was not the result of ignorance ; 
they were acquainted with the claims put forward by 
Xenophon, and they rejected them. 

But the hollowness of these claims is evinced most 
clearly by the subsequent career of Xenophon himself, or 
rather by his total lack of a career. The marvellous 
achievement of that handful of Greeks, who succeeded in 
finding their way home from the heart of the Medo-Persian 
Empire, and, in spite of all the snares laid for them by the 


Great King, marched from the neighbourhood of Babylon 
to the shore of the Black Sea, made a profound impression 
on contemporary opinion, not less as an admirable example 
of Hellenic resource and energy, than as a first revelation 
of the interior weakness by which the apparently resistless 
world-power was already affected. If Xenophon really was 
the leading spirit in that memorable undertaking, how was 
it that his talent for command, a talent which in those 
stormy days of Greek political life could never lack employ- 
ment, lay fallow during the rest of his life ? After he had 
spent a few more years in Asia Minor, serving the Spartan 
king Agesilaus in apparently no very exalted capacity, he 
returned unpromoted to Greece, and presently (he had in 
the mean time been condemned to banishment from Athens) 
fought at Coronea in the army of Agesilaus, who was 
opposed on this occasion by an Athenian contingent as 
well as by the Thebans. He now disappears into the 
obscurity of private life, from which he never again emerges 
except as a versatile and prolific author. 

Here begins the happiest part of his life. The patron 
he had hoped to find in Cyrus had been found in Agesilaus. 
The faithful services of the adjutant were rewarded by a 
grant of land in the neighbourhood of Olympia. Very 
characteristic of Xenophon is the act of pious ingenuity, 
or ingenious piety, by which he contrived at once to enlarge 
his new possessions and to provide for the gratification 
of his favourite tastes. A tenth of the booty taken by 
the Ten Thousand had, according to Greek custom, been 
appropriated to the gods ; it was to be divided between 
Apollo and his sister Artemis. The execution of the 
scheme was reserved for the generals. Xenophon fulfilled 
his part, as far as Apollo was concerned, by placing a 
votive offering in the Athenian treasure-house at Delphi ; 
but he employed the sum set aside for Artemis, not with- 
out oracular guidance, in the purchase of land adjoining his 
own modest estate at Scillus. Here he erected a miniature 
shrine to the goddess, modelled on the temple at Ephesus, 
and instituted a yearly tithe-offering and festival, in which 
the men and women of the town, and indeed of the whole 


district, were to meet together and enjoy the hospitality 
of the goddess. The central feature of the festival, dedi- 
cated as it was to the goddess of the chase, and held on 
land well stocked with game, naturally enough consisted of 
a hunt, in which the youth of the neighbourhood took part, 
Xenophon's own sons at their head. Here in the shadow of 
the solemn forest, by the cool waters, teeming with fish and 
conchylia, of the river Selinus, beneath the plumes of the 
grove enclosing the sanctuary, the aging soldier of fortune 
found consolation for many a vanished dream of glory. It 
had not, indeed, been granted him to found a new dynasty in 
that city by the Black Sea, where he had hoped to lord it 
while he lived, and be succeeded by his sons. Still, here 
was a manorial seat where he might spend a noble leisure, 
relieved of the petty cares of life ; where he might tame 
his steeds, follow the chase, till the soil, and practise the 
writer's art. He saw his sons, now in the flower of their 
youth, growing up, strong and beautiful, by his side, and he 
was able to complete their education, which had begun in 
Sparta, in accordance with his ideals. Nor were his efforts 
wholly vain, as is shown by the universal grief at the 
untimely death of his firstborn on the field of Mantinea. 
Some of the most illustrious pens in Greece, that of 
Isocrates, and even that of Aristotle among them, were 
stirred to busy rivalry by the heroic death of that young 
officer of high promise. It was not only that they desired 
to honour Grylus ; they wished also to offer respectful 
sympathy and consolation to the stricken father. He, for 
his part, was in sore need of comfort. The same victories 
of Thebes which had robbed him of his son had deeply 
humiliated both the land of his birth and the land of his 
adoption, and had, moreover, destroyed all his hopes of a 
panhellenic union. He had been driven from hearth and 
home. Athens, indeed, had opened the gates so long 
closed to him ; but it was not in Athens, now an alien city 
for him, that he spent the last years of his life. He went 
to Corinth, and there, about the year 350, in the midst of 
restless literary activity, he closed his long and chequered 


2. A mixed character is as difficult to do justice to as 
the shifting hues of a many-sided talent. Both are com- 
bined in Xenophon. It is not strange, therefore, that his 
reputation has greatly fluctuated, that the early centuries 
paid him excessive honour, while the modern tendency is 
to load him with undeserved obloquy. The truth is that 
his talents rose well above the line of mediocrity, but that 
the same cannot be said of his character, even when we 
judge him, as we are bound to do, according to the 
standards of his time. There is some temptation to say 
of him that his character injured his talent ; that his self- 
complacent vanity deceived him as to the limits of his 
powers, and induced him to engage in so great a diversity 
of tasks as seriously to impair the value of his work. But 
this formula, like all others which destroy the unity of 
a personality, appears on closer examination to be an 
inaccurate expression of the facts. If we look deeper 
we shall find this unedifying versatility foreshadowed in his 
intellectual endowment as well as in his moral qualities, 
namely, in the excessive suppleness of his mind and tastes, 
in that lack of a solid centre of resistance which is as 
characteristic of the thinking and expressing as of the 
willing and acting personality. 

To such an extent does he possess this attribute of 
adaptability that we find him maintaining contradictory 
theses in different works with equal emphasis. At one 
time he champions the primacy of knowledge and its un- 
conditional sovereignty over the will ; at another he is for 
the omnipotence of training and habit, and their educational 
allies, reward and punishment. In one passage, treating of 
the two sexes, he lays emphasis on the natural differences 
of their endowment, and the consequent justification in 
nature of the separation of their tasks ; elsewhere he insists 
that, given the necessary instruction, women would attain 
the same degree of courage as is usual among men. Nor 
does it make much difference to Xenophon whether he 
preaches these contradictory doctrines in his own name, or 
whether he puts them in the mouth of his revered master 
Socrates. This intellectual flexibility is coupled with the 


wish to rival the most admired authors, each in his own 
special branch of literature. Has Thucydides eclipsed all 
the historians who preceded him, but left his great work 
unfinished ? Xenophon is at once ready to step into the 
breach and write a continuation, in which he even imitates 
the peculiar colouring of the Thucydidean style. Has 
Plato produced, in the " Symposium," a marvel of poetic 
delineation and philosophic insight ? Xenophon imme- 
diately makes use of the same framework to exhibit a new 
picture of Socrates and his friends, one which, though not 
competing in magnificence with the portrait painted by 
Plato, is intended to surpass it in naturalness and truth 
to life. 

A borrowed costume is admirably adapted to set off 
the defects of a figure which it does not fit. Flowing folds 
of drapery become unsightly and ridiculous when they 
cover puny limbs. Thus a comparison of copy with original 
may be trusted to teach us something about the peculiari- 
ties of Xenophon. The speculative inadequacy, not to say 
pove.rty, of his intellect is nowhere more clearly manifested 
than in his " Symposium." Nothing can be more striking 
than the clumsiness with which philosophical discussions are 
here tacked on to the introductory matter, or the short- 
winded haste with which the thread is dropped when it has 
barely been taken up. It is as if one were to wedge in 
the question of the possibility of teaching virtue between 
such phrases as " How do you do ? " and " How hot it is 
here ! " in a drawing-room conversation. That which makes 
the " Symposium " worth reading is exclusively the by- 
play of the dialogue, the pithy humour of Socrates' jests 
on his own ugliness, and the boldly realistic description of 
the pantomimic display and the acrobatic feats with which 
the company were regaled by the pupils of the Syracusan 
ballet-trainer. Here Xenophon is in his element, just as 
a similar description in the " Anabasis " shows him at his 
literary best And there are several passages of like 
character in the " Hellenica ' which prove how well his 
talent was suited to the genre style. One of these describes 
the meeting between Agesilaus, seated on the grass and 


plainly clad, and the satrap Pharnabazus blazing with gold 
and accompanied by men carrying costly carpets. Then 
there is the extraordinarily long and elaborate account of 
King Otys' wooing through the intermediary of Agesilaus. 
Lastly there is the story of how the Spartan Sphodrias 
escaped the death-penalty by the intercession, proffered 
with much shame and hesitation, of Prince Archidamus, 
who loved the condemned man's son. More than one fresh 
and vivid simile, learnt in nature's school, testifies to our 
author's talent for exposition, and there are several passages 
of deep and moving pathos. We may mention tae murder 
of Alexander the tyrant of Pherae, and the pictur of his 
wife, her soul divided between hatred and anxiety, waiting 
the issue of the crime of which she has compelled her 
brothers to be the instruments. Above all, we have the battle 
at Phlius, and the fine description, with which the narrative 
ends, of the women ministering to the wearied victors 
and at the same time weeping for joy. But Xenophon 
fell immeasurably short of his predecessors, of Herodotus 
as well as Thucydides, in the very point in which, pluming 
himself as he did on his philosophy, he thought to surpass 
them in reflexion. It is true that there are several 
excellent speeches in the " Hellenica," admirably suited to 
their respective occasions, such as that of Theramenes, that 
of Critias, and that of Procles the Phliasian. But it is 
probable, in view of the particular circumstances of that 
conflict among the Athenian oligarchs, and in view of the 
known close relations between Procles and his friend, King- 


Agesilaus, that Xenophon here had abundant sources of 
information to draw upon, and did not need to trust to his 
own constructive powers. When, however, he comes to 
express his own thoughts on politics and it is almost 
exclusively in the later books of the history that he does 
so W e are reminded of the depth and far-sightedness of 
Thucydides solely by the operation of the law of contrast. 
These self-complacent sententious utterances are in part 
mere military technicalities, in part the threadbare common- 
places of morality. When he attempts to deduce historical 
occurrences from their deeper causes, it is generally the 


pious element in his mind that governs the direction of his 
search. We have already had an opportunity of noting the 
skill with which he contrived to reconcile a perfectly 
genuine religiousness with the pursuit of his worldly 
interests. As an historian he often employed similar means 
to help himself out of a difficulty. The long and energetic 
rule of his patron Agesilaus ended with the profound 
humiliation of Sparta. But Xenophon's theological prin- 
ciples saved him from the necessity of investigating the 
relations of cause and effect, and of searching for the 
possible mistakes by which Agesilaus might have con- 
tributed to the ruin of his country. He regarded the 
disaster at "i^euctra, and the whole chain of events which 
led up to it, as the work of an angry deity taking vengeance 
for the illegal occupation of the Theban Acropolis by a 
Spartan general. 

3. The " Hellenica " has been the object of much 
unjust as well as just censure. The author enjoyed the 
protection and the society of a ruler who, as we learn 
from Plutarch, was distinguished by particularly winning 
manners, and was accustomed to treat his dependents 
with excessive favour and indulgence. In writing the 
history of his own time, Xenophon was for the most part 
engaged in writing the history of Agesilaus. And if we 
acknowledge that he was unable to free himself from the 
spell of his illustrious patron's thoughts and sentiments, we 
are acknowledging no more than that Xenophon was not 
a great man. Circumstances conspired against his inde- 
pendence of judgment with a, force to which many a 
sturdier spirit might well have succumbed. It is also easy 
to understand how Xenophon came to hold that over-rated 
monarch in still higher esteem than did his contemporaries 
and immediate successors. Judicial exactness in the ap- 
portioning of praise and blame is not to be looked for as 
from favourite to patron, and in the present case there is 
no serious ground for assuming any wilful distortion of 
historical truth. His silence on certain important events 
of that day, such as the founding of Megalopolis, or the 
institution of the second Athenian maritime confederacy, 


testifies to the limitations of his horizon ; but here again 
we have no occasion to scent partisanship. His attitude 
towards the civil broils of Athens is precisely that of a 
moderate aristocrat, and he was in the fullest sympathy 
with Theramenes, whom Aristotle, as we have recently 
learnt, valued above all the other politicians of that age. 
We need not approve of his turning his back on his 
country immediately on the outbreak of a fierce faction- 
fight, one which ended in the defeat of his own party. 
But we ought not to be harder on him than the whole of 
antiquity was. His own city forgave him, though late, and 
we shall do well not to be more Athenian than the 
Athenians. Another charge which has been brought 
against Xenophon is that of injustice towards his great 
Theban contemporaries. To our thinking, the charge has 
no foundation. Indeed, we are disposed to forgive the 
son of Grylus many sins for the sake of his hearty hatred 
of the Theban policy. Thebes was a cancer in the body 
of Hellas. Its temporary ascendency was in a high 
degree responsible for the subjugation of Greece. We 
must not lay too much stress on the Persian proclivities 
which were traditional at Thebes, and for which even the 
great Pelopidas claimed credit at the court of the " Great 
King." For second-rate states which aim at the leading 
position in a nationality must always, from the nature of 
the case, work in the interests of foreign dominion, what- 
ever the views and inclinations of their chief statesmen may 
be. Xenophon's lack of sympathy for the Beusts and 
Dalwigks of Greece only testifies to the strength of those 
pan- Hellenic sentiments which he was bound to cherish if 
he was not to despise himself. And the warm commenda- 
tion which he nevertheless bestows on the generalship 
displayed by Epaminondas at Mantinea, in the very battle 
where his own son was cut off in the promise of his youth, 
exhibits his character in a more pleasing light than almost 
any other fact we know about him. 

Xenophon did more than make a little history, and 
write much of it ; he also invented history. For us, at any 
rate, he is the oldest representative of that branch of 


literature which we call the historical novel. His own 
production, it is true, belongs to an inferior variety of the 
species, for it is very far from being a picture of an age 
or a people. The " Cyropoedia " reminds us less of the 
creations of Walter Scott and Manzoni than of those 
popular tales which give a glorified picture of a great ruler 
set in a framework of fiction. But while the moderns 
generally restrain their inventive faculty to the field of 
minor incident, Xenophon did not hesitate to remodel, and 
as he doubtless thought, to improve the central facts of 
history. We need not stop to study the exact details of 
this procedure, nor to consider whether it was justifiable. 
Our concern is to know the author's mind, and the more 
pliable the raw material of history proved in his hands, the 
better for us. We find, in fact, that he recast his materials 
in the exact likeness of his own ideals, and the latter are 
consequently presented to us in this work with exceptional 
clearness of outline. Unstable spirit as he was, he yet 
did not altogether lack a certain stock of fundamental 
principles in morals and politics. In order to understand 
them, it is advisable to keep in mind their common source, 
which was a strong antipathy to the democratic institutions 
of Athens. He was thus to a certain extent in agreement 
with his greater contemporary Plato. But the agreement 
did not go very far. To the real and supposed disad- 
vantages of popular rule Plato opposed a social and 
political ideal of the highest originality. Xenophon, on 
the other hand, sought and found salvation in actually 
existing forms of government. They might be of Greek 
or of barbarian origin, they might be monarchical or aristo- 
cratic ; the great thing was that they must be removed as 
far as possible from any resemblance to the Athenian 
democracy. Among his heroes are Cyrus, who founded a 
monarchy of the patriarchal type in Persia, and Lycurgus, 
the author of the Lacedaemonian constitution, in which a 
limited monarchy was combined with aristocratic institu- 
tions. Over-subtle critics have supposed it necessary to 
distinguish between two stages in the mental development 
of Xenophon an earlier, in which he favoured absolute 


monarchy, and a later, in which he gave the preference to 
aristocratic forms of government. Such refinements are 
put out of court by the fact, which is generally known and 
admitted, that in the idealized picture of Persia contained 
in the " Cyropaedia," the author has not scrupled to embody 
many a feature which in reality belonged to Sparta. 
Xenophon has himself remarked that the ideally perfect 
ruler of the patriarchal type is even in the most favourable 
conditions only met with occasionally as an isolated 
historical phenomenon. In writing the " Cyropsedia ' he 
cannot have meant to make so rare, not to say so unheard- 
of, a gift of fortune the basis of a permanent institution 
intended for constant use, and to recommend it seriously 
for adoption by the Greeks, to whose small city-states it 
was applicable only in exceptional instances. He was 
disgusted with the dilettantism, the inconstancy, the lack 
of strict adherence to principle, which he, and many others 
of like mind, took to be the chief characteristic of con- 
temporary Athens and its administration. By way of 
remedy he laid stress on the absolute necessity of intro- 
ducing a more rigid discipline, and of constructing an 
official hierarchy with a strict system of grades, after the 
military pattern. Responsibility was to be increased by 
concentration, and the division of labour was to be carried 
into the minutest detail. This last requirement leaves us 
in some doubt. We cannot tell how far it was due to 
Xenophon's knowledge of the East and its primaeval 
civilization, which in this particular was superior to that 
of Greece, and how far to the influence of Plato's theory, 
which latter, as we must not forget, owed something to 
Egyptian inspiration. At any rate, this requirement is 
formulated with a precision which is as far removed from 
the ordinary Greek view as it is closely related to the 
conclusions developed in Plato's " Republic." 

Such thoughts as these constitute the central kernel of 
the " Cyropcedia." For shell, we have a fantastically embel- 
lished account of the triumphant career of the Persian 
conqueror. We need hardly say that the latter is invested 
with attributes intended to mark him out as an eminent 


realization of the ideal ruler. But the execution of this 
portrait is not especially characteristic of Xenophon. His 
taste, and perhaps still more that of the select Spartan 
circle in which he moved, finds freer expression in the 
abundant accessory matter which forms the seasoning to 
an otherwise somewhat tedious book. There is a good deal 
of humour, of a blunt guard-room type, and an intense, 
but restrained, erotic element. And Xenophon would not 
be Xenophon if he did not assign a prominent place to 
sport, particularly that art of horsemanship which he praised 
with so much eloquence. 

Three political writings of Xenophon still remain to be 
considered. These are : his panegyric on " the Lacedae- 
monian Constitution," in which, however, he dwells more 
on the social than the strictly political institutions of 
Sparta ; the dialogue, " Hiero ; ' the work, " On the 
Revenue of Athens." The second of these, a dialogue 
between the Sicilian prince Hiero and the wise poet 
Simonides, seems at first sight not a little perplexing. The 
first portion of the work is an elaboration, in the true 
Platonic spirit, of the thesis that the tyrant, or ruler by 
force, leads a far from enviable life, and can never enjoy 
real happiness. The second portion, however, contains the 
picture of an ideal tyranny a rule founded on violence or 
usurpation, and explains the conditions under which such a 
rule can serve the public welfare and the happiness of the 
tyrant himself. It is not at once obvious in which of these 
contradictory sections the author is really in earnest. But 
a closer examination removes all doubt, and shows that 
the preponderance of interest lies with the second or con- 
cluding portion. Simonides here recommends a policy such 
as we describe by the words " Caesarism " or " imperialism." 
The energetic maintenance of peace and order at home, 
an imposing display of armed power sufficient to command 
respect abroad, radical measures of philanthropic tendency 
emanating from the royal initiative, such are the methods 
by which the disorderly element is to be kept in check, and 
the citizens compensated for the loss of self-government. 
We need not stop to consider the points of agreement 


or difference between this political ideal and that of the 
" Cyropredia." The old hypothesis is probably not far 
from the truth, according to which the dialogue was intended 
to recommend its author to Dionysius, a prince whose good 
graces were much sought after by other Greek writers 
besides Xenophon. 

The third of the above-named works also shows every 
sign of having been written for a special occasion. It was 
composed when Xenophon was a very old man. He had 
been received back again by his native city from which he 
had once been banished, and he desired to show his grati- 
tude, perhaps also to secure a better welcome for himself 
and still more for his sons. For this purpose he presented 
his country with a plan of reform, intended as a remedy 
for its shattered finances. He suggested that the silver- 
mines at Latirium should be exploited on a greatly extended 
scale, and that the State, instead of farming them out as 
before, should work them itself, at least in large measure. 
Nor was this to be the only instance of nationalization. 
Why, he asked, should not the State possess a mercantile 
navy as well as ships of war ? Why should inns and 
lodging-houses be all in private hands? Everything was 
to be done to give a powerful impulse to trade and 
industry, and every citizen without exception was to receive 
a share of these public undertakings, in the shape of a 
fixed, though perhaps moderate, annuity, paid him by the 
State. We naturally ask by what means these far-reaching 
plans were to be realized. But the answer is one we find 
some difficulty in taking seriously. Our bold financier 
expects abundant assistance from capitalists, and that not 
only from Athenians, who might regard the annuity which 
they, like all other citizens, would receive, as at any rate 
partial interest on their outlay. He also counts on large 
advances from foreign States and princes, even from Persian 
satraps, who are to be won over by " honourable mentions >: 
by orders and decorations, as we should say. It will amuse 
our currency financiers to learn from Xenophon that gold 
can, and that silver can never, suffer depreciation from over- 
production. It was not Xenophon who invented the panacea 


of nationalization. We have already met with it in con- 
nection with Hippodamus of Miletus (see Vol. I. p. 409, seq.). 
That this leaning was in accord with the tendencies of the 
age we learn from the instance of Plato, who did not shrink 
from the nationalization of the family. But along with all 
that is chimerical in Xenophon's schemes, we find many 
details which testify to his ripe and extensive knowledge 
of the world and of business. In one passage we find the 
idea of mutual insurance expressed with surprising clear- 
ness ; in another there are excellent arguments against that 
attitude which is common among radicals of all ages, and 
which is expressed in the cry, " Either everything now and 
at once, or else nothing at all." Although in this project 
of his Xenophon has several points of contact with the 
contemporary demagogues, who insisted on the main- 
tenance of the less-propertied classes at the public cost, the 
means which he advocated for the attainment of that end 
often betray his old way of thinking. When he recom- 
mends a policy of energetic philanthropy, vigorous inter- 
ference on the part of the State, and in particular a system 
of rewards and prizes by which an influence is to be exerted 
on the most diverse departments of life, he is giving utter- 
ance to thoughts which occur in the " Cavalry Officer," the 
" Cyropaedia," and the " Hiero," as well as in the work we 
are now considering. 

There is yet another point in which Xenophon remained 
true to himself to the end in his attitude towards things 
divine. Perhaps we ought here to speak of superstition 
rather than religion. At any rate, Xenophon showed him- 
self primitive and superstitious in his beliefs, in more than 
one sense of the words. We must not make too much of 
the fact that he always and everywhere assumes and expects 
the direct intervention of the gods. This goes no further 
than to show that he was entirely uninfluenced by the 
enlightenment of the age, as represented, say, by Anaxa- 
goras. He was well aware that his own way of thinking 
was not that of his times, and he excuses his exceptional 
position in characteristic fashion. He is anticipating objec- 
tions against his continual introduction of references to the 


gods in his exposition of military technicalities. "A man 
who has often been in danger" -it is in such terms as 
these that he justifies himself " will be less inclined to be 
surprised at my procedure in this matter." It is as if 
Xenophon, with his astonishing naivete, were bent on 
corroborating by precept as well as example the old 
observation that gamblers, huntsmen, soldiers, miners, and 
sailors are more prone to superstition than other classes. 
His attitude towards the divine powers is completely 
described by the phrase : Do ut des. It is always his 
zealous endeavour to conciliate their good will by offerings ; 
and he frequently and emphatically repeats his conviction 
that the gods are more inclined to aid with their wholesome 
counsel, imparted by means of Xenophon's beloved art of 
divination, those who remember them in prosperity than 
those who only turn to them in the stress of misfortune. 

4. We have now fulfilled our design (cf. p. 64) of 
giving the reader a tolerable acquaintance with Xenophon's 
life and writings. We have not done so for his own sake, 
for he can hardly claim a niche to himself in the series of 
Greek thinkers, but in view of the importance attaching to 
his accounts of the words and the teaching of Socrates. 
The question as to what is trustworthy and what untrust- 
worthy in these accounts is one which we have already 
answered in great part by implication. The positive results 
of our inquiry into the subject have been incorporated in 
our sections on the life and work of Socrates. But now 
that the reader has been familiarized with Xenophon's 
character, it may not be superfluous to lay before him a few 
samples of the matter which Xenophon offers as Socrates', 
but which we are entirely unable to receive as such. 

The " Memorabilia " contains so much that is un- 
Socratic, and so much that is unworthy of Socrates, that 
some modern scholars, desiring to reconcile their respect 
for the portrayer with their respect for the portrayed, 
have gone so far as to pronounce considerable portions 
of the work spurious additions of later hands. In the case 
of one critic in particular, this violent procedure has led to 
the excision of the greater part of the " Memorabilia." Such 


extravagances of criticism, accompanied as they arc by an 
equally arbitrary rejection of other well-attested writings 
of Xenophon, are not altogether without a value of their 
own. They supply an undesigned corroboration of the 
view that the traditional estimate of Xenophon is in con- 
tradiction with the impression inevitably produced by an 
impartial study of his works. 

On reading these reports of Socratic teaching we are 
at once struck by a circumstance which leads us strongly 
to suspect their fidelity. The dialectic method, of which 
Socrates was the acknowledged master, has here been 
thrust completely into the background. In its place we 
have a series of long-winded and unctuous discourses, full 
of positive dogmatism, and devoid of any trace of cross- 
examination, or of any penetrative elucidation of concepts. 
If this was the best that the great Athenian had to offer 
to the youths in the gymnasium and the men in the 
market-place, he would never have been able to captivate 
and permanently influence the best brains of his age. So 
conventional a preacher of the hackneyed and obvious 
could never have roused or provoked the nimble-witted 
Athenians ; they would have fled from him as an intoler- 
able bore. That it is quite possible to moralize with 
spirit Xenophon has shown to his own cost, by incorporat- 
ing in his work the celebrated apologue of Prodicus (cf. 
Vol. I. p. 429). 

The brightness, variety, and life of this borrowed 
matter only brings out more clearly how flat and monoto- 
nous are the speeches which make up the bulk of the 
" Memorabilia." It is true enough that the commonplaces 
of to-day were once fresh and original. But, stretch this 
principle to its utmost limit, and it will still be necessary 
to acknowledge that the plain and simple thoughts of the 
teacher of Plato and the contemporary of Thucydides are 
here set forth with intolerable prolixity, and smothered 
beneath a load of illustrations, any one of which would 
have been all but superfluous if it had stood alone. 
Consider, for example, the dialogue with Lamprocles, 
Socrates' eldest son, and its terribly diffuse elaboration of 


the thought that all ingratitude is wrong, and that the 
worst kind is ingratitude towards parents, to whom we owe 
so much, and who mean well by their children even when, 
as Xanthippe sometimes did, they scold them without due 
cause. Immediately afterwards comes a never-ending 
exhortation to patience, an inordinately protracted "in- 
duction," a long series of particular instances, all leading 
up to the conclusion : " If you wish your brother to treat 
you well, treat him well yourself first." The practical 
advice which Socrates gives to Aristarchus does indeed 
contain a spark of philosophy. He is exhorted to rise 
above the current prejudice which brands manual labour 
as unworthy of a free man. But there is not the faintest 
glimmer of philosophy in the counsel given to Eutherus to 
choose a calling which does not require a great expenditure 
of physical energy, in order that he may not be obliged 
to relinquish it by declining years. Finally we note the 
exhaustive discussion of the advantage of having a body 
strengthened by care and exercise, and the string of 
precepts regarding behaviour at table, forbidding us, for 
example, to eat meat or dainties without bread, to eat 
too much of them, or too many sorts of them. Surely it 
was not for the sake of imparting instruction such as this 
that Socrates brought down philosophy from heaven to 
earth. And when at last Xenophon does come to the 
Socratic dialectic, after keeping us waiting for many a 
weary page, the method yields but meagre fruit in his 
hands. We may well believe him when he exclaims, 
almost with a sigh, " But to give a complete account of 
all his definitions would be a most laborious undertaking." 
In other words, it would be too much to expect the retired 
officer to plunge into the subleties of dialectic. To sum 
up, Xenophon was a brave country squire, an excellent 
condottttre and sportsman, and he wrote tales of war 
and adventure full of humour and graphic delineation, but 
poverty-stricken in point of thought. It is one of the 
most amusing, and yet one of the most depressing caprices 
of literary destiny that has handed his works down to us 
among the authorities on the history of philosophy. 




I. AMONG the companions of Socrates there was none to 
whom Xenophon stood in closer relations than he did to 
Antisthenes, whose portrait he painted with lifelike fidelity 
in his " Symposium." In him he saw and admired that 
originality which he himself so greatly lacked. For fidelity 
to the teaching of the master was in this case united with 
a considerable faculty of independent thought. Anti- 
sthenes indeed, was more than a disciple; he continued and 
developed what Socrates had begun. This is apparent 
primarily from his method, which has not a single feature 
to remind us of Socrates. The latter had lived and moved 
in the investigation of concepts, but with Antisthenes such 
investigations play an entirely subordinate part. The very 
terms in which he expresses himself in regard to definitions 
betray a feeling of contempt rather than of respect for 
that philosophical method. Nor is there anything to be 
wondered at in this. Essays in definition sufficed for the 
founding of the Socratic ethics ; they were inadequate for 
the purpose of developing it. The old kernel could only 
grow in a new shell. As for the kernel itself, Antisthenes 
held to it with strenuous perseverance. To give shape to 
the Socratic ideal was the task of his life. Socrates had 
insisted with all the force and passion of his nature on 
inexorably rigid consistency of thought, on the undivided 
unity of the will, on the unlimited rights of criticism, on 
the rational deduction of all rules of life. But he had 
been, in the main, satisfied with the theoretical recognition 


of these demands. There were, indeed, some points in 
which he dissociated himself from the view of life held by 
most of his fellow-citizens. He differed from them not 
only in his condemnation of Athenian political institutions, 
but in the cardinal matter of the value to be placed on 
external goods, life itself included, all of which he esteemed 
as insignificant when weighed against inward peace and 
the welfare of the soul. But he never went to the length 
of a complete breach with all existing codes and standards. 
And yet it was precisely in the direction of such a breach 
that the development of his teaching naturally led. Reason 
can never be for long a mere auxiliary and subordinate. If 
she is summoned to protect that which has not originated 
in herself, she soon seizes the reins of power, and in the 
end destroys everything which she has not herself produced. 
The ally throws off the mask and appears as mistress. 
Thus Socrates laid down premisses, and his disciples drew 
from them the inevitable conclusions. And the processes 
of thought employed in the rearing of the superstructure 
could not but be essentially different from those which 
had done service in laying the foundations. 

Both in the form and in the substance of the Socratic 
teaching we detected a tendency towards utilitarianism. 
But the tendency was masked to some extent by the 
method of definitions. Socrates subjected to a searching 
examination the meaning of those words in which men 
incorporate their judgments of value ; he tested and sifted 
the underlying thought, and endeavoured to transform 
hazy, contradictory notions into sharply defined, self-con- 
sistent concepts. But this procedure of his, though leading 
in particular instances to innovation or paradox, really had 
its root and base in contemporary beliefs. He worked 
with ideas, not facts. He sought to introduce order and 
clarity into traditional and current estimates of values, and 
had no dealings with anything calculated to destroy or 
radically to modify those estimates. If ever he did attempt 
anything of the kind, it was by roundabout means, and, 
strictly speaking, without complete logical justification. 
For instance, he cherished the conviction that in State 


affairs far too subordinate a part was assigned to special 
knowledge. But in spite of all his utilitarian leanings, he 
never formulated the doctrine that the common interest 
requires all business of State to be placed under the 
direction of the man most capable of conducting it. In- 
stead of that, he investigates the conception of a statesman 
or of a king, determines its content by the aid of analogies 
with pilots, physicians, farmers, and so forth, and finally 
reaches the conclusion that kings or statesmen who lack 
the requisite knowledge do not come under the concept 
that, in fact, they are not really kings or statesmen at all. 
An " ought " is thus smuggled into the determination of 
what "is." A disciple who desired to follow still further 
the path on which the master had entered, and to attack 
the problem of the wholesale renovation of public and 
private life, could not possibly remain content with the 
method of definition. 

If we ask what other methods remained, we shall 
hardly find more than two. The first of these is one 
which we may term the method of abstract construction. 
It was employed by Plato among the Socratics, and in 
still greater measure by the school of Jeremy Bentham. It 
consists, first of all, in an analysis, partly psychological, partly 
sociological, of the nature and the needs of men. Con- 
clusions are drawn as to relations between the individual 
and society, and on these foundations, sometimes with the 
additional support of an appeal to more or less authentic 
history, the fabric of a complete scheme of society is reared, 
including a code of rules to govern individual conduct. 
Those who are deterred from following this path, by 
their want of talent for systematic speculation, or by their 
lack of confidence in long-drawn-out inferences, have an 
alternative plan at their disposal. They will look primarily 
for actual patterns and examples of their ideal society, and 
aim at their reproduction. This method, which we may 
call that of concrete empiricism, often appears in a special 
form which the following remarks are intended to elucidate. 

The evils by which a reformer believes his age to be 
oppressed, and for which he seeks a remedy, admit of a 


twofold interpretation. They may be regarded either as 
the signs of incomplete development, or as the effects of 
degeneracy and decay. It is to the second of these inter- 
pretations that a member of a highly civilize'd society is 
more especially prone, and that for a very simple reason 
the present may be easily compared with the past, but not 
with the future. And though the burdens of to-day may 
really be light compared with those of a bygone age, they 
seem heavier to us because it is we who bear them. The 
eulogist of the past has thus become a proverb. That 
which is foreign or remote is often seen through a trans- 
figuring haze which veils its imperfections and multiplies 
its excellences. And the effects thereby produced upon 
susceptible minds are the same in all ages. Those who 
originated the myth of a golden age, or that of a paradise 
of human innocence, were the precursors of a long train 
of religious sectarians and philosophic reformers. All of 
them, in a manner, resemble Christopher Columbus. They 
sail to a new world, hoping all the while for nothing more 
than a new route to a part of the old. For when con- 
ventional fetters and the manifold exigencies of an intricate 
society oppress the soul, where else shall a man turn despair- 
ing eyes but to the far-off primaeval sources of civilization, 
that antiquity whose idealized picture passes so readily for 
a type and forecast of the future? Heart and brain are here 
moved by a common impulse ; the heart yearns regretfully 
for the vanished gladness of youth, and the brain, active 
but not self-confident, knows its own helplessness. In 
such a case men hear the cry, from the lips of a Rousseau 
or of an Antisthenes, according to the century, " Let us 
return to Nature." 

2. Of the writings of Antisthenes, which were largely 
composed in the form of dialogues, we possess but scanty 
remnants. Nor are we adequately informed as to the 
events of his life. He was born at Athens, but his mother 
was a Thracian woman. The fact that he was only half 
Greek is one of some importance in the history of Cynicism. 
It must, at any rate, have made it easier for him to break 
with accepted standards, religious as well as social. A 


full-blooded Hellene, even if he had shared Antisthenes' 
exclusive belief in a single supreme deity, would hardly have 
permitted himself the blasphemous exclamation, " If I could 
but lay hands on Aphrodite, I would shoot her " -that is, 
with the bow and arrows of her son. To us these words 
seem to possess no small biographical significance. We 
cannot think that so fierce an outcry would have been wrung 
from the lips of any whose bosom had not harboured violent 
passions, whose heart had not been sorely wounded and tor- 
mented. And it seems likely that his outward circumstances 
were not exempt from sudden changes ; for that proletarian 
poverty of his, of which we read so much, ill agrees with 
the statement that he enjoyed the costly instruction of the 
rhetorician Gorgias. Probably some adverse stroke of 
fortune robbed him of a comfortable, though not aristo- 
cratic, home, and plunged him into the depths of want. 
It was not till he had arrived at mature manhood that 
he joined the circle of Socrates' disciples a " belated 
learner," to quote Plato's gibe, and turned from rhetoric 
to philosophy. Nature had dowered him with an iron 
will and a susceptible disposition, more especially sensitive 
to painful impressions of every kind. His ready and 
powerful intellect preferred concrete images to logical 
formulae, and he had little taste for subtle distinctions or 
for adventurous speculation. He possessed a powerful, 
creative imagination, and a gift of vivid exposition, fascinat- 
ing by its homely pith and vigour. In an age when Plato 
wrote, the fastidious Athenian public counted him among 
its standard and favourite authors. And though there is 
something that repels us in the censorious tone of his 
attacks upon men of genius like Pericles and Alcibiades, 
it may be pleaded in mitigation that he had himself drunk 
the cup of bitterness. His history was probably that of a 
worldling who had recklessly broken with his own past, 
and henceforth judged himself with the same inexorable 
severity which he meted out to others. But it is now time 
to pass in review the speculative foundations of Cynicism. 

Socrates had made reason the arbiter of life. But 
thought and reflexion are impossible without materials in 


the way of facts. These are partly supplied, so far as 
ethical and political questions are concerned, by that 
analysis of human nature and consequent synthesis which 
we have already mentioned and illustrated by the example 
of Plato. But Antisthenes followed the other method, 
which was more congenial to him, namely, the immediate 
utilization of the data of experience. Discontented with 
the mode of life then prevalent, and sickened by the 
artificiality and manifold corruption of contemporary 
society, he looked for salvation in a return to primitive 
and natural conditions. He contrasted the elaborately 
stimulated wants, the weakness and enervation of civilized 
man, with the independence, the unimpaired force, the, as 
he supposed, superior health and longevity of the animals. 
Caring little, as he in general did, for the natural sciences 
and their auxiliary, mathematics, he went so far as to 
write a book " On the Nature of Animals." No vestige 
of this work has been preserved, but its purport may be 
gathered from numerous utterances of the Cynic school, 
and from a number of imitations produced by later 
admirers. There can be no doubt that its object was to 
derive from the animal world authoritative models and 
suggestions for the shaping of human life. This method, 
it is clear, was inadequate, taken by itself, to effect the 
desired purpose, even if one could follow the Cynics in 
their fearless acceptance of results which offend all refined 
sentiment and bid defiance to social usage. From the 
study of animals they passed to the study of primitive 
man. The idealization of uncivilized peoples was no 
novelty in Greek literature. The tendency appears as 
early as in the Homeric poems, where we find the 
nomads of the North, who lived on milk, praised as 
" the justest of men." But the Cynics took the savage 
for their teacher in all seriousness, just as Diderot and 
Rousseau did in a later age. They glorified the state 
of nature with inexhaustible eloquence and ingenuity, and 
they never wearied of anathematizing the pernicious 
influence of civilization. In Plato's reproduction of the 
work of Protagoras, " On the Aboriginal Condition of 


Mankind," the purpose assigned to the foundation of the 
first cities is that of protection against wild beasts and 
human injustice. " On the contrary," reply the Cynics, 
"city-life was the beginning of all injustice; lying and 
fraud had their origin here, just as surely as if cities had 
been founded for the express purpose of encouraging 
them." Again, the work we have just mentioned con- 
tains allusions to the helplessness of man, contrasted with 
the protection which the animals derive from the possession 
of wings, of thick fleeces, of tough skins, of natural armour 
and weapons of offence. Hence was inferred the indis- 
pensability of civilization, and its chief auxiliary, fire, for 
the gift of which due honour was paid to the benevolent 
demi-god Prometheus. " On the contrary," once more the 
Cynics reply, " man's helplessness is the effect of his 
effeminacy. Frogs and various other animals have as 
delicate a frame as man, but they are protected by the 
hardening which comes of exposure, just as the human 
face and eye need no protection in order to defy all the 
inclemencies of the weather." In general, every creature 
is capable of living in the situation in which it is naturally 
placed. Otherwise the first men could not have maintained 
their existence, for they lacked the use of fire just as 
much as dwelling-places, clothing, and artificially prepared 
food. Over-subtlety and the busy spirit of invention have 
done little to bless mankind. The greater men's efforts 
to obviate the hardships of life, the harder and the 
more toilsome has life become. And herein lies the true 
significance of the Prometheus-myth. The Titan was not 
punished because Zeus hated the human race, but because 
that gift of fire had sown the seeds of civilization, and 
therewith those of luxury and all corruption. We may 
remark, in passing, that this same interpretation of the 
Promethean legend commended itself to the kindred soul 
of Rousseau. 

In this exposition we meet with two elements of vital 
importance in the doctrine of the Cynics. The arbitrary 
will of man is contrasted with the immanent reasonable- 
ness of Nature. All things, when left as Nature created 


them, serve the purpose of their being, and when man 
attempts to improve them he only introduces disorder and 
confusion. Those who regard existing conditions of state 
and society as the product of chance and arbitrary caprice, 
as a lapse from original perfection, have obviously no 
alternative but to refer man to Nature as the eternal source 
of well-being. Further, the teaching drawn from a con- 
sideration of animal and primitive human life needed to 
be supplemented by what we may term, with approximate 
accuracy, a primordial revelation. The interpretation of 
the Prometheus legend, to which we have just alluded, 
gives us a suggestive hint in this connection. It is at 
first not a little surprising that the men who denied the 
plurality of gods and contested the truth of the Hellenic 
religion should have occupied themselves at all with these 
legends, except for the purpose of casting doubt and 
ridicule upon them. But we find, as a matter of fact, that 
Antisthenes, and his disciple Diogenes after him, made a 
careful study of the mythological histories of gods and 
heroes. He wrote a long series of works commentaries 
on the Greek bible, we might call them in which he 
pressed the Homeric poems into the service of Cynic 
doctrine by means of an ingenious, but altogether unhis- 
torical, exegesis. It may be suggested that perhaps these 
treatises were written in jest. But they constitute far too 
large a proportion of the total literary output of Anti- 
sthenes. A still stronger objection is the fact that the 
methods of interpretation and adaptation employed in 
them were permanently retained by a branch of the Cynic 
school, and were handed on to the Stoic school which 
succeeded it. The latter, having made its peace with 
society and the powers that be, doubtless found these 
methods useful for the purpose of bridging over, if not 
filling up, the chasm between philosophy and popular 
belief. But the Cynics, who maintained an attitude of 
uncompromising revolt against the religion of the people, 
had another motive. Although they denied the plurality 
of gods and the current interpretation of the myths 
relating to them, they could neither weaken the authority 


of Homer nor free their own minds from the magic spell 
of legendary lore. Instead of denying and rejecting, they 
preferred to read between the lines and to explain away, 
till their temerities of exegesis displayed greater audacity 
than mere bald negation would have done. But that 
which turned the scale was doubtless that need of a con- 
crete empirical datum which the Cynics, with all their 
revolutionary recklessness, deemed a necessary support in 
their war with society. The rough and somewhat plebeian 
intellect of Antisthenes was ill at ease in the airy regions 
of pure reason and abstract construction ; it required a 
foothold of facts, whether authentic or fictitious. We are 
reminded of the " cranks " of to-day, all of whom prefer to 
found their Utopias on violent interpretations of Scripture 
rather than renounce the authority of the Bible itself. 
Thus to the revelation supposed to be contained in Nature 


and primitive man, there was added a second revelation, 
the vehicle of which was imagined to be those earliest 
productions of the human mind to which we give the 
names of legend and saga. 

3. But if we are to reach the heart of Cynicism, it is 
not enough to trace the paths of thought habitually 
followed by the mind of its founder. The same road often 
carries many different vehicles propelled by very different 
forces. It will now be our task to search for these motive 
forces, and make ourselves acquainted with their nature. 

To understand the key-note of Cynicism, the temper 
out of which that whole scheme of life sprang as from a 
germ, we need not go further afield than to the Europe of 
to-day. The author of " War and Peace " represents his 
hero, at a certain point of his career, as a prey to " that 
indescribable, purely Russian (!) feeling of contempt for 
all that is conventional, artificial, the work of man for all 
that the majority of mankind regard as the highest good." 
We are assured by one of the most competent judges 
that this sentiment dominates almost the whole of contem- 
porary Russian literature. We will give another quotation 
from the same great Russian author he is speaking this 
time in his own name : " We look for our ideal before us, 


while in reality it lies behind us. The progress of man- 
kind is not a means but an impediment to the realization 
of that ideal of harmony which we carry about in our 
bosoms." There arises a question, the answer to which will, 
perhaps, throw some light on the state of mind we are 
considering. The occurrence and wide diffusion of such 
sentiments in modern Russia points to their being some- 
thing different from a mere reaction against excessive 
civilization. If that were their true character, we should 
expect to find them further West. 

We are inclined to conjecture that even a moderate 
degree of civilization may be felt as excessive when it is 
imposed from without, and, so to speak, grafted on an un- 
suitable stock. In more general terms, the situation to 
which we refer is one where elements, some making for 
civilization, others hostile to it, are found existing side by 
side, but not fused together, in the same individual or 
national character. We may here recall the semi-barbarian 
origin of Antisthenes, and the fact that not a few of his 
successors belonged to the outer fringe of Greek culture. 
Diogenes and Bion came from Pontus, Metrocles and 
his sister Hipparchia from Southern Thrace, while the 
satirist of the school, Menippus, was a Phoenician and born 
in slavery. A similar observation applies to the members 
of the earlier Stoic school, who professed what may be 
described as a not too radically modified Cynicism. At 
their head also stood a half- Greek, and not many of them 
were natives of the central seats of Hellenic civilization, 
Often, too, plebeian birth produced much the same effect 
as foreign origin, while not infrequently the two stigmas 
were combined. Cynicism has accordingly been named, 
not inappropriately, " the philosophy of the Greek pro- 
letariate." In the eighteenth century we see the cult of 
Nature and the revolt against civilization originating with 
a man who at one time was obliged to earn his bread as 
a servant and again by copying music, though he knew 
himself to be a literary genius with scarce an equal. 
Similarly the movement we are now considering may well 
have owed some of its force to the contrast between a well- 


founded self-esteem and a mean situation. These external 
influences were no doubt seconded by those inward con- 
flicts, of which we have seen examples in our study of 
Euripides. More than one soul must have been torn by 
such conflicts in a day when the authority of tradition was 
reeling under repeated blows, and when Religion, hitherto 
supreme ruler of men's lives, had been deposed and her 
throne left vacant. Nor could the gradual extinction of 
political liberty fail to release much energy, which now 
began to be directed towards the remodelling of individual 
and corporate life. Some of Byron's poems have been 
spoken of as parliamentary oratory seeking an abnormal 
outlet. In like manner we may speak of the Cynic 
movement, with its intensified craving for personal free- 
dom and self-assertion, its defiant accentuation of indi- 
vidual independence, as an abnormal manifestation of 
political liberalism. It is as if the individual had 
despaired of society and now put forth all his energies 
to save himself from the common shipwreck. This indi- 
vidualism was the key-note of the age, the dominating 
feature of whole departments of intellectual life. It was 
associated with a profound sensitiveness to the misery 
of human existence, with that gathering stream of pes- 
simism whose progress has long been under our observa- 
tion, and the two together produced effects which went 
far beyond the isolated phenomenon of Cynicism. For 
proof it will suffice to adduce the significant fact that 
in nearly all the philosophies of any vogue the technical 
terms denoting " the supreme good " were words of nega- 
tive import. Freedom from pain, freedom from grief, 
freedom from excitement, freedom from passion, freedom 
from illusion, such were the names chosen to denote the 
highest goal of human endeavour. In other cases the 
nomenclature does not tell so plain a story. But even then, 
that which is represented as the highest attainable, and for 
the attainment of which all the powers of man must be 
strained to their utmost, is not positive happiness but 
mere freedom from suffering. This wide diffusion of a 
keen sensitiveness to the misery of existence is a fact which 


we shall do well to bear in mind. We shall thus be enabled 
to understand much that would otherwise seem strange in 
the inner workings of Cynicism, and we shall be saved 
from hasty and unjust judgments. 

It was, as we have seen, an age when new claims were 
making themselves heard. Existing usages and institutions 
had been called in question. It was necessary to prosecute 
vigorously the work of criticism, and on its results to found 
a new system of social, and still more of individual, practice. 
For these purposes the chief available instrument was the 
intellectualistic radicalism of Socrates, which gained in 
influence the longer it engaged the public attention. The 
resistance which meets all innovations, as such, diminishes 
with familiarity, and what was at first a breach with custom 
becomes, in time, a new custom itself. 

4. We have already referred to the fidelity of Anti- 
sthenes to his master's teaching. Indeed, so far as relates 
to the foundations of ethics, the two may be said to have 
held identical doctrine. For Antisthenes, no less than for 
Socrates, virtue is something that can be taught, an in- 
alienable possession, a " weapon that cannot be wrested 
from the hand ; " for both it is essentially one with wisdom, 
and, at least when united with " Socratic strength," sufficient 
to secure the happiness of man. But when it comes to 
a more exact definition of what constitutes happiness, a 
difference becomes apparent. Self-sufficiency (aurapicaa) 
of the individual is now placed conspicuously in the fore- 
ground, and strong emphasis is laid on the proposition : 
" The wise man will shape his life, not by precedent, but 
by the laws of virtue." Depreciation of external goods and 
the pleasures they can procure was from the first a feature 
of the Socratic spirit. But Antisthenes gave new definite- 
ness and point to the original maxims. The complex 
concept of evSaifjiovia, or well-being, received different 
interpretations, as was only natural, from disciples who 
differed in character and social position, and the expression 
of a particular one-sided view would call forth an equally 
one-sided insistence on the opposite standpoint. Thus 
while a man of the world like Aristippus might admit 


passive enjoyment, provided it were not allowed to grow 
into a necessity, as part of his scheme of life, Antisthenes 
took the opposite line, preached in round terms the total 
rejection of such enjoyment, and raised this rejection to 
the rank of a fundamental principle. " Better madness 
than pleasure," is a phrase of his which reminds us of 
the outbreak of fierce hatred against the goddess of love, 
to which we have already referred. Heracles was the 
model whom he and the other Cynics held up for imitation, 
the patron saint, so to speak, of the school. Antisthenes 
wrote a dialogue entitled " Heracles," and, with this for 
guidance, his followers delighted to tell again the story 
of the hero's laborious and militant life, identifying, by 
ingenious allegories, the foul monsters which he vanquished 
with the vices and lusts that beset the souls of men. For a 
foil to this ideal of strenuous energy, they took Prometheus, 
the quibbler and " sophist," the misguided victim of his 
own pride and contentious spirit, whose liver this was 
their subtle reading of the old myth swelled when he 
was praised and contracted when he was blamed, and who 
was finally redeemed from his torments by the merciful 
interposition of Heracles himself. 

The resistance of an inert world soon convinced the 


Cynic, if he had not known it from the first, that his ideals 
stood little chance of realization within the pale of existing 
institutions. He therefore did his utmost to place his own 
person outside the circle of social life. He renounced all 
the cares of property ; he formed no family ties ; he abode 
in no settled dwelling-place. Not only did he hold aloof 
from politics, but, in his capacity of "world-citizen," he 
viewed with indifference the fortunes of his own city and 
nation. He chose the life of a beggar. His long, shaggy 
hair and beard, his wallet or beggar's pouch, his staff, his 
cloak of coarse cloth the only covering he wore winter 
or summer, these were the outward tokens of his sect, 
the marks which sometimes procured him honour, but 
more often contempt and even blows. Even the luxurious 
Alexandria of Trajan's time was full of these philosophic 
begging-friars ; and when Julian ascended the throne, 


towards the close of the fourth century, the movement 
was by no means extinct. All the motives that govern 
the life of the average man, particularly the craving. for 
wealth and power, all the ideals to which the common 
herd look up in respectful admiration, passed with the 
Cynics for " illusion." " Freedom from illusion " was their 
motto. The sight of the poor deluded multitude, forsaken 
of reason and virtue, filled them with a feeling of contempt 
which either vented itself in mockery and satire or awoke 
a spirit of missionary enterprise. Some, like Crates sur- 
named " the Door-opener," intruded into private houses, 
and imparted unsought counsel, heedless of abuse ; others, 
like Bion and Teles, delivered sermon-like harangues, of all 
degrees of excellence, before public audiences. No act 
was too rash for the intrepid Cynic, and in the days of the 
Roman Empire, it was generally an adherent of this school 
that would address the emperor in the theatre, and voice 
the well- or ill-founded discontent of the masses, occasion- 
ally drawing down upon himself a heavy penalty. The 
wisest empefors, however, avoided gratifying the wishes of 
brawlers who yearned for a martyr's crown. The annals 
of the sect record at least one instance of voluntary, self- 
imposed martyrdom. Peregrinus committed suicide by 
burning before the assembled multitude at the Olympic 
festival. This act of self-immolation, which was intended 
as an imitation of Heracles, the patron saint of the Cynics, 
was laughed to scorn by Lucian, in his work, " The End of 
Peregrinus," with more zest than wit. 

But we must leave these later manifestations of the 
Cynic temper, and endeavour to gain a clearer idea than 
we have yet succeeded in obtaining of its source and 
origin. An insatiable thirst for freedom, a profound 
sensitiveness to the ills of life, an unshakable faith in the 
majesty and all-sufficiency of reason, and a corresponding 
abysmal contempt for all traditional ideals, such are the 
moods and the convictions which lie at the root of 
Cynicism, and which are expressed by the representa- 
tives of the school in language of which some relics still 


' Tknved by no yoke of desire nor laden with fetters of thraldom, 
One thing alone do we honour, immortal Freedom, our Mistress." 

Thus sings the poet of the school, Crates of Thebes, 
who also glorified the 7n'//>, or beggar's wallet of the Cynics, 
symbolic of their life, in verses parodying a passage of the 
"Odyssey" which relates to Crete 

"Pera, so name we an isle, girt round by the sea of Illusion, 
Glorious, fertile, and fair, land unpolluted of evil ; 
Here no trafficking knave makes fast his ships in the harbour ; 
Here no tempter ensnares the unwary with venal allurements. 
Onions and leeks and figs and crusts of bread are its produce. 
Never in turmoil of battle do warriors strive to possess it ; 
Here there is respite and peace from the struggle for riches and 

Antisthenes made unceasing war upon accepted ideals, 
upon the belief in civilization, even upon the old-time 
glories of the nation, hitherto held sacred from attack. 
The dialogues which he wrote in furtherance of his 
campaign have perished except for a few sparse relics, 
and it is to the allusions and imitations of later writers, 
especially Dion of Prusa, who was born between 40 and 
50 A.D., that we owe the possibility of forming a fairly 
full, but not too trustworthy, idea of their contents. We 
have already referred to the dialogue in which he con- 
trasted Heracles, the primaeval pattern of Cynic strength 
and thoroughness, with the vain quibbler Prometheus. 
Another work in which he gave expression to his contempt 
for civilization would seem to have had for its theme the 
unjust condemnation of Palamedes, a man whom the 
ancients had regarded almost as the human counterpart 
of Prometheus. To him were ascribed the invention of 
regular meals, of the alphabet, of arithmetic, of army 
organization, of signalling by fire, of the game of draughts ; 
in short, of a vast number of the aids to civilization. But 
the myth added that the Greeks had condemned him on 
a false charge, and stoned him to death beneath the walls 
of Troy. Antisthenes asks, with bitter scorn How was it 
possible that progress and refinement should have borne 


such fruit ? In particular, how came the Atridae, who, as 
rulers and leaders of armies, could not fail to find those 
inventions of the greatest use, to allow their teacher to be 
accused and sent to a shameful death ? This episode from 
the legendary past is put forward as another proof that the 
imagined blessings of civilization, its alleged refining and 
elevating influence, are empty illusions. In a dialogue 
entitled " The Statesman," Antisthenes, as we are not 
surprised to learn, heaped unmeasured condemnation on 
all the most famous statesmen of Athens. The wealth 
and power which they had won for their country, and 
for which they were chiefly honoured, were in his eyes 
not a valuable but a fatal gift, like that golden fleece 
which kindled the fratricidal strife of Atreus and Thyestes, 
with all its heritage of horrors and crimes. 

Similar contempt for the greatest Athenian statesman, 
and a similar assertion that these men had made their 
country stronger and richer but not better, are to be met 
with in Plato's " Gorgias." The coincidence would seem to 
justify the inference that on this matter Socrates thought 
much as his disciples did. Much more astonishing is the 
audacity with which Antisthenes if he really was Dion's 
model assailed the glorious memory of the great war for 
freedom. He would appear to have argued somewhat as 
follows : The victories of that war would have been truly 
great only if the Persians had stood high in point of 
wisdom and valour. On that hypothesis, their defeat 
would have meant that the Greeks, and in particular the 
Athenians, possessed these qualities in still higher measure. 
But that hypothesis had not been realized. In order to 
support this contention, Antisthenes gave an exhaustive 
account (probably in his " Cyrus ") of the Persian mode of 
education, and severely condemned it. He urged, further, 
that in Xerxes the Persians had not possessed a king or 
commander in the true sense of the words, but only a man 
who could wear a lofty bejewelled head-dress and sit on 
a golden throne. A multitude which quaked before a 
man like that, and which had to be driven to battle by 
the lash, was not an army whose defeat argued any signal 


merit on the part of the victors. Again, if those famous 
battles had been won by virtue of moral superiority, how 
was it that the Athenians suffered defeat in their turn 
during the course of the war, and finally, in the time of 
Conon, gained a second naval victory over the Persians ? 
Such shiftings of fortune only proved that neither side 
possessed thorough training and discipline, just as in a 
contest between two unskillful wrestlers, each will throw 
the other in turn. 

5. One would have thought that even the most radical 
of radicals would have been satisfied with an audacity of 
criticism which did not spare the most sacred memories 
of the nation a criticism which to Athenian patriots may 
well have seemed a retrospective justification of the 
sentence passed on Socrates. And yet we learn that in 
point of fearlessness Antisthenes was far outstripped by 
his pupil Diogenes. The latter compared his teacher to a 
trumpet which gives forth a mighty sound, but has no ears 
to hear it. That is to say, he did not think Antisthenes 
sufficiently in earnest with his doctrine. And, in truth, 
Diogenes was the first to realize the Cynic ideal in its 
entirety. He may be called the father of practical Cyni- 
cism. The strength of intellect and of will that he mani- 
fested in the pursuit of his aims made him one of the 
most popular figures of antiquity. Some of his contem- 
poraries, indeed, regarded him as a caricature of his 
spiritual grandsire, and dubbed him " Socrates gone 
mad," but his repute grew with the centuries. The high 
esteem in which he came to be held may be inferred from 
the writings of Plutarch and Lucian, in which his name 
has almost superseded that of Antisthenes. Further 
testimony is contained in the speeches of Dion, and still 
more in the letters of the Emperor Julian. Upon the latter 
the personality of Diogenes made an impression, the 
strength of which may be judged from the bold freaks 
of exegesis to which he was driven in order to reconcile 
his respect for the man with his distaste for certain cardinal 
doctrines of the sect. And yet between the philosopher 
who lived in a tub and the philosopher who sat on the 


throne of the empire, there was an interval of half a 
thousand years. 

This prodigious popularity of Diogenes has not illumined 
but rather obscured, the facts of his life ; for he early became 
the central figure of a luxuriant growth of anecdote and 
legend. His father was named Hicesias, and carried on 
the business of a banker or money-changer at Sinope, on 
the coast of the Black Sea. Diogenes was banished from 
his native city, and migrated to Athens, where he was won 
for philosophy by Antisthenes. He lived to extreme old 
age, spending his time alternately at Athens and at Corinth. 
His death, which took place in the latter city in the year 
323, is said to have been on the same day as that of 
Alexander the Great. There is a story, probably a fiction, 
to the effect that in his youth he had been guilty of coining 
false money, and that this was the reason of his banishment. 
This story seems to have arisen from a misunderstanding 
of a passage in his dialogue, " The Panther." He there 
stated that he had received from the Delphic oracle a 
command to "recoin the money." But the Greek word 
vopurfia, which is here used, has a double significance it 
may denote either current coin or current usages and 
recognized rules of conduct. It must have been in the 
second of these senses that the word was used in the 
oracular response, with reference to a readjustment of 
ethical values. 

Another story, which is also open to doubt, though it 
was repeated by many authors and formed the subject of 
two ancient monographs, relates how he was captured by 
pirates and sold as a slave to Xeniades the Corinthian. 
According to Dion, who is usually well informed on 
Diogenes, it was of his own free choice that he left 
Athens to live in Corinth after the death of Antisthenes. 
But even if we grant that Diogenes really did act as tutor 
to the sons of Xeniades and educate them on his famous 
and original plan, everything points to the conclusion that 
he was soon perfectly at liberty to live and teach at Corinth 
exactly as he had done at Athens. For in spite of all 
uncertainties in matters of biographical detail, we have 


fairly trustworthy information on his habits and mode of 
life. He put aside all care or thoughts for property and 
the means of subsistence ; by a process of ascetic training 
he reduced his wants to the absolute minimum. And yet 
his face was radiant with health, strength, and cheerfulness. 
For every one who addressed him he had an apt and ready 
answer, roughly sarcastic or gracefully courteous, as the 
case might be. He was as friendly with the lowest as he 
was proud with the greatest of men ; and, in spite of the 
gross violations of decency by which he sought to show 
his entire independence of convention and opinion, the 
astonishment which he aroused was coupled with universal 
respect and all but universal admiration. It is still possible 
to point out the spot which was his favourite haunt while 
he lived in the luxurious pleasure-loving city of Corinth. 
It was the cypress grove on the high ground of Craneion, 
a residential quarter of the city. In this fair pleasaunce, 
not far from a temple of Aphrodite, and the mausoleum 
of Lai's, the ironical despiser of pleasure loved to sun 
himself and breathe an air famous for its aromatic fresh- 
ness. Here he might be seen, seated on the grass in 
the midst of a circle of reverent disciples, whom he held 
spell-bound by his talk ; and here tradition places the 
scene of his interview with the great Alexander. Of the 
manner of his death varying accounts are given. According 
to some, like many other adherents of the Cynic and Stoic 
sects, he took his own life. He was buried not far from 
Craneion, by the side of the road leading to the Isthmus, 
and a dog, carved in Parian marble, was placed over his 
grave. He had adopted as a title of honour the opprobrious 
epithet of " dog " (Greek KVUV, hence " Cynic "), which had 
been applied to him, and perhaps to his teacher before him. 
Similarly, political parties have sometimes appropriated 
the nicknames given them by opponents ; thus the Gucux 
(beggars) of the Netherlands, and the Tories (highway- 
men). " Heavenly Dog " is the name given to Diogenes, 
doubtless with allusion to the Dog-star, by the poet 
Cercidas in verses dedicated to his honour. 

Diogenes influenced posterity more by his example 



than by his writings. Among his pupils was Crates, a 
well-born Theban, who divided his not inconsiderable 
property among his fellow-citizens, and adopted the life 
of a beggar. In this he was followed by two converts 
from Maroneia in Thrace, Metrocles and his famous sister 
Hipparchia, who became the life-companion of the mis- 
shapen beggar-philosopher. His poems, some specimens 
of which we have already quoted, consisted partly of 
parodies, in which even the wise Solon was not spared, 
and partly of tragedies. A few relics of the latter have 
been preserved, a few lines in praise of the world-citizenship 
and the freedom from care of those who possess nothing. 
Of the other pupils of Diogenes the two who most deserve 
special mention are the Syracusan slave Monimus, the 
aggressive enemy of universal " illusion," and Onesicritus, 
who accompanied Alexander in his campaigns, and was 
not a little struck by the resemblance between the life of 
Indian penitents and that of the Cynics. The statesman 
Phocion and the rhetorician Anaximenes are also mentioned 
as his pupils in a wider sense of the word. 

Of the seven book-dramas of Diogenes, all of which 
dealt with mythological subjects, we only possess three or 
four lines of slashing invective against " filthy and unmanly 
luxury." His prose works are lost without a trace. It is 
quite impossible to distinguish in detail between what is 
genuine and what is spurious in the sayings attributed to 
him. To avoid repetition, the little we know of his personal 
teaching will be incorporated in the general exposition and 
criticism of Cynic doctrines to which we now proceed. 

6. The extant remains of the hortatory speeches of 
Teles, the date of which is about 240 B.C., contain a sedi- 
ment of general Cynic teaching, the common property, we 
venture to say, of the school. The chief feature here 
brought before our eyes is that reversal of ordinary judg- 
ments of worth, in respect both of virtue and of happiness, 
which is denoted by the technical term of dSiatyopia, or 
indifference. It may at first seem as if an attitude of 
indifference were inconsistent with any judgments of worth 
at all, new or old. But the contradiction is only apparent. 


The doctrine of dSiaQopta is not to be understood as im- 
plying that the externals of life were to the Cynics matter 
of entire and absolute indifference. If so, it would have 
been impossible for them to project a new ideal of social 
and political order. The true meaning of the doctrine is 
as follows : The man who has gained perfect freedom for 
his own soul, who has vanquished " illusion," is superior to 
all external circumstances. Sickness, banishment, death, 
deprivation of funeral rites, all that men in general regard 
as the direst calamities, cannot disturb his peace of mind. 
On the other hand, all the so-called good things of life 
-power, riches, honour are incapable of affording him 
pleasure. But for the man who has not yet attained this 
goal of inward emancipation, who is still struggling to 
overcome illusion and to cast off the yoke of passion, 
outward circumstances are not indifferent. It is in this 
connexion that the readjustment of values, the reversal of 
common judgments of worth, takes place. The beggar 
wins freedom more easily than the king ; the needy and 
the despised have an advantage over the possessors of 
wealth and honour. Indifference is thus not for him 
who is still climbing, but for him who stands on the 
summit ; he has conquered all illusion, and the way now 
lies open for him, not to happiness merely, in the ordinary 
sense, but to such bliss as the gods enjoy. 

Once we have familiarized ourselves with this mode of 
thought, we shall be able to understand how Diogenes was 
led to the extreme paradoxes of which his dramas were 
full. His constant aim was to exhibit the pernicious 
effects of conventional ideas, their power of destroying 
inward peace. He was never tired of depicting the misery 
which arises out of a false estimate put on things in them- 
selves indifferent, not merely for those primarily concerned, 
but for distant generations as well, through the emotional 
shock produced by the narration and dramatic reproduction 
of the original events. "There they sit together in the 
theatre," we may imagine Diogenes exclaiming; "they are 
dissolved in tears and racked by unspeakable horror, all 
because of a ' Thyestean banquet ' or the marriage of 


CEdipus with his own mother." And yet this horror 
rested upon pure imagination. The example of fowls, or 
dogs, or asses, and the brother-and-sister marriages of the 
Persians teach us, so he thought, that the union of near 
kin is not necessarily against nature. Similarly, he justified 
cannibalism by an appeal to the customs of many peoples, 
and by an argument drawn from the Anaxagorean physics. 
Since all contained parts of all, human flesh was not a 
unique or privileged substance. Diogenes was not here 
concerned so much with the establishment of rules for 
conduct, as with the enforcement of the doctrine that the 
wise man is "self-sufficient," and absolutely independent 
of the power of fate. Even when destiny brings upon him 
calamities as horrible as those which overtook Thyestes or 
CEdipus, he can convince himself, by a flawless chain of 
reasoning, that no real evil has befallen him. It must, 
however, be conceded that in framing these paradoxes 
Diogenes was influenced to a certain extent by mere 
delight in the bizarre as such, and the wish to astonish 
the honest bourgeois by a dazzling exhibition of dauntless 
courage. We need not go far to find modern parallels. 

The little that we know of the Cynic ideals of the state 
and society creates a very different impression. Here 
every feature stands in close relation with historical reality, 
with the actual circumstances of the day, or of the recent 
past, or the near future ; and for this reason the seriousness 
of those projects is not to be doubted. There is much 
significance in the mere fact that the " Republic " of 
Diogenes, a work whose genuineness has been questioned, 
but which is amply guaranteed by the testimony of the 
earliest Stoics, contained the picture of an ideal political 
and social order. It proves that the vagrancy and the 
mendicancy of the Cynic, as also his withdrawal from 
public affairs, were regarded by the founders of the school 
as temporary makeshifts, and not intended as permanent 
and normal elements in the perfect life. The leading 
features of their ideal were the removal of all barriers 
that divide man from man, that is to say, the abolition of 
national and social distinctions and of the privileges based 


on sex. The form of government which they proposed 
was doubtless an enlightened and provident despotism. It 
is difficult, at all events, to see how their boundless con- 
tempt for the deluded multitude could have been reconciled 
with any scheme giving that multitude an effective share 
in government, while a dominant aristocracy would have 
been made impossible by the provisions of their social 
programme. There is great truth in the observation, first 
made by Plutarch, that Alexander realized the Cynic ideal 
on its political side by the foundation of his world-empire. 
It is noticeable, too, that in Egyptian state-papers of the 
Ptolemaic era passages occur which agree both in sentiment 
and expression with the teachings of the Cynic school. 
Lastly, that division of mankind into Hellenes and bar- 
barians, to which even Aristotle clung, was vehemently 
rejected by the great Alexandrian scholar Eratosthenes, 
whose teacher, Ariston, was remarkable among the Stoics 
for his leanings towards Cynicism. A movement which 
implied the disparagement of the old city-states, which 
sapped the national sentiment of Greece, and which 
cherished ideals incompatible with a graded social 
organization, thus provided a fitting prelude and accom- 
paniment to the monarchical transformation and the 
partial Orientalizing of Hellas. The Cynic and Stoic 
dream of a single flock under a single shepherd was 
temporarily realized, and even after the decay of two 
empires survived for centuries as an ideal. 

Our information on the social scheme of Diogenes is 
scanty and confined to a few provisions regarding property 
and population. We read of a proposal to introduce a 
kind of paper-money, the so-called "bone-money," which 
was to replace the precious metals as a medium of ex- 
change, and prevent the accumulation of movable wealth. 
Quite unconsciously, for his method was anything but 
historical, the Cynic has here imitated the iron currency 
of the Spartans. We are not told how he proposed to 
deal with landed property, but there can be little doubt 
that he would either have entirely prohibited the private 
ownership of land, or else confined it within the narrowest 


possible bounds. It is clear that there was no room for 
a law of inheritance under a system subversive of the 
family. That " community of children " was a fundamental 
feature of the scheme, is stated in so many words ; and we 
need not hesitate to accept an assertion which is probable 
in itself and is nowhere contradicted. Diogenes is here in 
agreement with the early Stoics, as well as with Plato, 
whose similar scheme, however, was only intended to be 
applied to the ruling class. It is said that Diogenes further 
proposed the community of wives ; but, from the context 
in which we find both this statement and a similar one 
regarding the founders of the Stoic school, it is plain that 
what he really advocated was something which we should 
now term "free love," but which may be described with 
greater fidelity to the Cynic ideal as a system of loveless 
unions subject to no control on the part of the State. In 
this instance zeal for unlimited individual freedom, from 
the yoke of passion as well as from the yoke of society, 
gained the victory over every other consideration. But, 
here as elsewhere, nature sometimes proved stronger than 
theory. The only liaison which is reported with any detail 
as having occurred among members of this group is that 
between Crates and Hipparchia, a woman who did not 
disdain the Cynic dress and the Cynic life ; and this, 
at all events, was evidently no casual and temporary 
association, but an instance of genuine love. 

7. It is not easy to discern the connexion between the 
social morality of the Cynics and their fundamental ethical 
postulates. If we possessed the " Republic " of Diogenes, 
or any remnant whatever of the relevant works of Anti- 
sthenes (" On the Beautiful and the Just," " On Justice and 
Courage," " On Injustice and Impiety "), our task would be 
easier. We might then hope to discover the method by 
which social obligations were deduced from the conception 
of individual happiness as based on self-sufficiency and the 
conquest of desire. But as it is, we are left to conjecture. 
All we can say is that there is no lack of connecting- 
links between that ideal of happiness on the one hand and 
the rudiments of social virtue on the other. The stern 


subjection in which the Cynic was expected to keep his 
passions, primarily to be sure in the interests of his own 
inward peace, could not but turn to the advantage of those 
who would have suffered if those passions had been let 
loose. This thought finds expression in the concluding 
lines of the passage we have already cited from the bur- 
lesque poem of Crates ; and the condemnation of jealousy 
and exclusive family affection which we find in Plato and 
the Stoics illustrates the same tendency. If, then, no one 
is allowed to own more than is required for the satisfaction 
of his most elementary needs, if all possession beyond this 
is to be regarded as hurtful to the possessor, there is an end 
of every occasion and every motive for plundering, enslaving, 
or oppressing others. Lastly, the unconditional rejection of 
all prejudices founded on distinctions of origin or of status 
choked at the fount the well-spring of pride and presump- 
tion ; though it must be allowed that new temptation to 
these sentiments was provided by the Cynic's lofty con- 
sciousness of superior virtue and his fine intellectual disdain 
for the deluded multitude. In reality, however, the Cynic 
was influenced by altruistic motives in afar higher degree than 
his ethics required him to be. Diogenes was universally 
praised for his kindness and his gentleness, and his suc- 
cessors were conspicuous by their efforts to help and reform 
their fellow-men. Nor is this all ; a clear note of sympathy 
with the suffering and the oppressed runs through all the 
literary relics of the school. A less pleasant feature was an 
inveterate suspicion of the rich and the high-placed, which 
was ready to impute sordid motives on the least occasion. 
Both characteristics may perhaps be justly laid to the 
account of the half proletarian origin and the wholly pro- 
letarian mode of life which were common in this sect. 

The ethical system of the Cynics derived neither increase 
of content nor reinforcement of motive from religion. Here, 
if anywhere, it is necessary to keep theology and religion 
strictly apart. The Cynics had the first, but lacked the 
second. With their clearness of intellect and their confi- 
dence in intellect, with their tendency to demand a radical 
solution of every problem, with their peculiar and exacting 


ideal of virtue, they could not fail to recognize the con- 
tradictions, the absurdities, the umvorthinesses of current 
polytheism ; nor could they rest satisfied with any of the 
compromises which for so long had served to bridge the 
gulf between the old faith and the new. The Cynics thus 
became the first to preach, without reserve or qualification, 
that simplest form of theology monotheism a doctrine 
which commended itself to them as much by its accordance 
with the universal reign of law as by its freedom from 
mythical accretions at variance with their own views on 
morality. It is only by convention that there are many 
gods ; by nature there is but one. The Godhead resembles 
no other being ; there is no likeness of Him whereby He 
may be known. These two propositions, which occurred 
in the writings of Antisthenes, comprise the sum of Cynic 
theology so far as known to us. 

In any case, the Deity was to them a colourless abstrac- 
tion, not unlike the " First Cause ' of the English Deists. 
They saw in the " Supreme Being " no Father caring for his 
children, no Judge punishing sin ; at the most a wise and 
purposeful Governor of the world. That the Cynic felt 
himself bound by any but the weakest of personal relations 
to the Godhead, there is not a trace of evidence to show. 
The best confirmation of this statement is the fruitlessness 
of the most zealous endeavours to make a case for the other 
side. Jakob Bernays, who saw in the adherents of " the most 
purely deistic sect of antiquity' the precursors and un- 
witting auxiliaries of the movement in favour of Biblical 
religious forms, would only too gladly have credited them 
with some touch of the spirit which animated their suc- 
cessors. But when he speaks of their " consciousness of 
union with God," and the " feeling of power springing 
therefrom," he has no better proof to offer than an arbitrary 
misinterpretation of a manifest joke, one of the many which 
are, rightly or wrongly, ascribed to Diogenes. The latter, 
as a piece of dialectic sword-play, undertook to prove that 
the wise man need envy no one, for he possesses all things. 
" Everything is the property of the gods " (note that the 
Cynic adopts the popular polytheistic standpoint) ; " the 


wise arc the friends of the gods ; among friends all things 
are common ; therefore everything is the property of the 
wise." Nor is it any wonder that with men who identified 
happiness with self-sufficiency, the loss of the feeling of 
dependence involved the loss of all truly religious emotion. 
For the rest, we may distinguish two phases in the 
attitude of the Cynics towards the popular religion. 
Venomous scorn for it, for its practices and its ministers, 
was displayed by the earliest founders of the sect. Anti- 
sthenes is said to have declined to contribute towards an 
offering to Cybele, the mother of the gods, with the remark 
that " doubtless the gods know their duty, and support their 
own mother." When an Orphic priest extolled the happi- 
ness of the initiated in the world beyond, he is reported to 
have exclaimed, " Why, then, do you not die ? ' Diogenes, 
too, is said to have expressed his contempt for the Eleu- 
sinian mysteries in the words, "Pataecion the thief" (a 
Greek Cartouche), "having been initiated at Eleusis, is 
more certain of bliss than Agesilaus or Epaminondas." 
But both Antisthenes and Diogenes loved to dwell on the 
myths and elicit profound meanings from them by dexterous 
turns of exegesis. Such exercises were not to the taste of 
their successors, who were still more assiduous in their 
attacks upon popular beliefs. Their least deadly weapon 
was parody, some examples of which, marked by undeniable 
wit, were composed by Crates and Bion on the model of 
the Homeric poems. With Menippus the Syrian and his 
fellow-countryman Meleager, parody rose to satire, and they 
undertook a thorough sifting of current views on life, as well 
as of religious opinion. Echoes of their writings reach us 
from the pages of Lucian, a scoffer who, much as he dis- 
liked the Cynics, may often be observed standing on their 
shoulders. The summit of achievement in the aggressive 
line was reached by CEnomaus of Gadara, who lived in the 
second century A.D., the author of a blustering invective, 
steeped in " Cynic bitterness." In " The Detected Jugglers " 
the oracles were scourged as the offspring of falsehood and 
fraud. A long series of responses given by the god at 
Delphi was passed in review, and arraigned, not merely for 


the ambiguity which was the veil of ignorance and for their 
incompatibility with the self-determination of the indi- 
vidual, but for their subservience to tyrants, for a barbarity 
\vhich went to the length of enjoining human sacrifices, and 
for their glorification of immoral poets and useless athletes. 
8. When we survey Cynicism as a whole, the impression 
received varies very greatly, according to whether w r e fix our 
attention on the doctrines of the sect or the individual \vork 
of its members, and again according to whether we consider 
its immediate, its remoter, or its remotest consequences. 
The ethics of the school were purely individualistic. The 
end of actions was the happiness of the agent ; this, again, 
rested upon his independence of the external \vorld, and 
this upon the development of his judgment and the steeling 
of his will by constant exercise and renunciation. None of 
the precepts that have been preserved to us relate to the 
promotion of the general welfare. The most that can be 
cited is their adoption of Heracles as a patron saint and 
model. But his unwearied labours \vere chiefly commented 
upon \vith reference to the rooting up or the taming of the 
passions which militate against happiness. In reality, 
however, benevolent and philanthropic sentiments were 
regarded as part of the typical Cynic character. Again 
and again w r e meet with the picture of the man who mixes 
with the masses, with the degraded and the despised by 
choice, strives earnestly after the healing of their souls, and, 
if reproved for keeping such company, answers, in words 
strangely reminiscent of a passage in the Gospel (Matt. ix. 
u) : "The physicians also go about among the sick, but are 
themselves whole." We have no means of gauging the 
influence of the Cynic moral sermon. In any case it did 
something towards paving the way for what may be called 
a softened and less one-sided form of Cynicism, and helped 
to make possible the widespread dominion of the Porch. 
Thus, indirectly at least, Cynicism contributed to momentous 
and deep-reaching changes in both political and social 
relations, foremost among which we may mention the 
substitution of monarchy for the regime of small republics, 
and (the spiritual counterpart of this, if we may call it so) 


the triumph of monotheism over polytheism. Western 
humanity owes a great and incontestable debt of gratitude 
to these men. They introduced new standards of value, 
and upheld an ideal of plain, simple, and natural living, 
which soon purged itself of its original taint of dross, and 
remained an enduring possession of the civilized world. 
The thirst for pleasure, for gold, and for power has not, 
for all that, disappeared from among men. But the mere 
existence of an opposing principle, one to which mankind 
has again and again reverted, often most strenuously when 
the need was greatest, has prevented the mighty forces of 
greed and selfishness from acquiring universal and undis- 
puted sovereignty. 

But while Cynicism has aided progress as by the working 
of a wholesome leaven, it must not be denied that the full 
realization of its ideals would have been the direst calamity 
which could have befallen mankind. 

" The good and evil cannot dwell apart : 

The world's a mixture- 
says Euripides, and his words are particularly applicable to 
Socratism, a movement whose fairest fruits and foulest 
weeds grew side by side. No greater blessing could have 
been conferred upon the world than the preaching of the 
doctrine that all human ordinances and precepts must 
submit to stand before the bar of reason, there to be 
judged by the measure of their fitness for their purposes, 
their usefulness, their salutary operation. But it is one 
thing to erect a supreme court of judgment to proclaim 
the indefeasible rights of criticism ; it is quite another to 
assign to criticism the work of positive construction, and so 
transform the judge into an architect. Attempts of this 
nature are fore-doomed to failure in every age. But their 
success was a pure impossibility in an age which lacked 
the historical sense altogether, and had not mastered the 
deeper problems of psychology. It was not a mere risk, 
it was an absolute certainty, that the more patent and 
palpable, but on the whole less important, utilities would 
thrust into the background others of greater moment but 


less easily discerned. Men who took pattern by the brute 
and the savage, and who, with such examples to guide them, 
proceeded to lop off the excrescences of civilization, were 
sure to lay violent hands on much that is the fruit of an 
evolution, leading in the main from the lower to the higher, 
whose stages must be measured in myriads of years. 

There is an extreme case which throws a lurid light 
on this subject. We need not be horrified so Diogenes 
thought at the idea of a " Thyestean meal." Let us 
examine the matter. What is there, traditional morality 
apart, to hinder the enlightened, civilized man from feasting 
on the flesh of his own child, of his friend, of any man ? 
Not conscience ; for the forbidden act is neither directly 
nor indirectly hurtful to any sentient being. The true 
obstacle is a deep-rooted instinct of reverence, resting in 
the last resort on the power of association. Between an 
honoured or a loved personality, or one merely respected 
as human, and its now soulless husk, the mind has created 
a bond almost too strong to be broken. Thus it is with 
the body bereft of life ; but things which never possessed life 
may also have a claim on our forbearance, our reverence, 
even our self-sacrificing devotion ; for example, portraits, 
graves, the soldier's flag. And if we do violence to our 
nature, if we succeed in breaking by main force the bonds 
of association, we lapse into savagery, we suffer injury in 
our own souls by the loss of all those feelings which, so to 
speak, clothe the hard bed-rock of naked reality with a 
garniture of verdant life. On the maintenance of these 
overgrowths of sentiment, on the due treasuring of acquired 
values, depend all the refinement, the beauty, and the grace 
of life, all ennobling of the animal instincts, together with all 
delight in and pursuit of art all, in short, that the Cynics 
set themselves to root up without scruple and without pity. 
There is, no doubt, a limit so much we may readily con- 
cede to them and their not too uncommon imitators of the 
present day beyond which we cannot allow ourselves to be 
ruled by the principle of association without incurring the 
charge of folly or superstition. The latter, indeed, is nothing 
else than the result of carrying the principle to extravagant 


lengths. A man who can lightly leave the house of his 
fathers, in which he and his have passed through the 
manifold vicissitudes of life, may justly be taxed with 
want of feeling. But he who cannot tear himself away 
from the old home, even though the walls are crumbling 
to instant ruin, can only be called superstitious or over- 
sensitive, according to the nature of his motives. 

In the comparative estimation of original and acquired 
values, it is not often that a priori reasoning succeeds in 
tracing the frontier-line with complete exactness. In this, 
as in all great questions affecting human life, any delimita- 
tion that is to be of use must be in the nature of a com- 
promise between competing claims based on specific 
experience. The reason is obvious. The high degree of 
complication which obtains in all human affairs, and the 
discrepancy, not in exceptional cases but in the average 
case, between the immediate and the remote results of a 
given institution or action, justify us in dismissing as 
chimerical all proposals to solve moral or social problems 
on the lines of the simpler problems of mechanics, by a 
calculation of the joint effect of known causes. The 
radicalism \vhich forgets this is in every country and in 
every age doomed to sterility. A noble people breaks 
with its past and goes forth in quest of liberty. It finds, 
however, nothing better than equality ; the dissolution of 
unifying bonds destroys the cohesion of society, robs it of 
all power of corporate action or resistance, and leaves it the 
ready prey of a despot. Then, for at least a century, that 
people stumbles along blindly from one short-lived experi- 
ment to another. Such is the universal experience of 
history ; and Cynicism, so far as it aimed at the immediate 
realization of a new moral and social ideal, was no exception 
to the rule. Considering it, however, as one among many 
factors in human progress, we may say that the world would 
have been poorer without it, and that it exercised a most 
salutary influence by its antagonism to the forces of inert 
conservatism and narrow-minded prejudice. 




I. To the east of Athens, not far from the Diomean gate, oa 
a low hill flanking the mighty cone of rock named Lyca- 
bettus, there stood a shrine of Heracles, and a gymnasium 
which was used by the illegitimate sons of Athenian citizens. 
It was in this building, named the Cynosarges, that the 
half-breed Antisthenes taught, under the protection of the 
patron saint of the Cynics. We may be sure that ethics 
was not the only subject on which he gave instruction. 
Probably the Homeric studies which occupied so large a 
place in his writings, and which were pursued with much 
vigour in other Cynic circles, were not unrepresented in his 
curriculum. Thirdly, and perhaps lastly, he no doubt 
devoted some attention to the metaphysics of knowledge. 
This subject formed the connecting-link between his teach- 
ing and that of the other Socratic schools, in particular the 
Megarian, as it was called. And as the two mutually illus- 
trate each other, while the successors of Antisthenes tended 
more and more towards an exclusive devotion to ethics, we 
have thought it best to omit this particular branch of the 
first Cynic's work in our general account of Cynicism, and 
treat of it in connexion with the doctrines of the Megarian 
and kindred Socratic schools. 

We cannot approach this subject without an expression 
of regret that our sources of information yield so slender a 
stream. Nor is it merely the niggardliness of the record 
of which we have to complain. The mighty genius and 
the wonderful literary art of Plato have thrust into the 


background the doctrines and the writings of his Socratic 
comrades and rivals. They were left stranded, off the main 
line of philosophic development ; and, in addition to neglect, 
they had to suffer contempt and obloquy at the hands of 
both Plato and Aristotle. The cursory allusions with which 
they are honoured by the two great leaders of thought are 
almost without exception of a polemical nature, nor are 
the polemics marked by too strict a regard for historical 
truth and justice. The reader is presented with a curt 
rejection of an opponent's theory ; he is not assisted 
towards any understanding of the state of mincl out of 
which it arose, or of the problems it was intended to solve. 
" Grey-bearded beginners," " poverty-stricken intellects," 
44 Antisthenes and other uneducated persons," " simplicity," 
4< silliness," such are the terms of opprobrium with which 
we are introduced to the doctrines now under consideration. 
In order, therefore, to understand these doctrines and judge 
them rightly, we must divest them of the partisan disguise 
under which they are presented to us ; and our first 
endeavour must be to ascertain how they arose and what 
were the exact limits of their original application. 

It is, indeed, no small injury that has been done by the 
heavy hand of the two great philosophers. Though the 
wish to do justice remains, the power is almost gone. But 
in addressing ourselves to the task of doing our part in the 
righting of a prescriptive wrong, we have the valuable 
assistance of powerful allies. In recent times Herbart and 
his followers were troubled by the very same difficulties of 
thought as Antisthenes and the Megarians. Nothing, 
therefore, could be more natural than that from this quarter 
should come the first impulse towards an impartial estimate 
of the solutions which had been proposed by those 
depreciated philosophers. 

First of all, we owe the reader some account of Megara 
and the thinkers who had their home there. The mere fact 
that the name of the city was also the name of a philo- 
sophical school is not without significance. The truth is 
that the leaders of that school found their course marked 
out for them to some extent by the peculiar situation and 


history of their country. Megara was a near neighbour of 
Athens, and between the two cities there existed an imme- 
morial border-feud. But in the race for power Athens had 
far outstripped her rival. The latter, after a beginning full 
of promise, after having sent colonists to the Bosporus 
where they founded Byzantium, and to Sicily where they 
founded a second, the Hyblean, Megara, experienced first 
a sudden arrest of development and then a rapid decline. 
That war of classes, whose grim echoes reach us in the lines 
of Theognis, had here raged with greater violence and per- 
tinacity than elsewhere, and had shattered the fabric of 
the State. Megara had the misfortune to lack that which 
carried other Greek cities past the stormiest phases of the 
class-struggle, a not too short-lived tyranny. It is not sur- 
prising that there was little friendly intercourse, and not 
much good will, between the neighbour-cities. The Athenian 
with his metropolitan pride looked down on the rustic and 
provincial Megarian, whom he was always ready to accuse 
of boorishness and dishonesty. " Megarian tricks " is the 
term used by the Attic comedians to stigmatize an ill-bred 
practical joke. Abuse of this nature was probably requited 
in kind, with all the added bitterness which comes of unsuc- 
cessful rivalry. Thus it was the natural destiny of Megara, 
once philosophy took root in its soil, to become the centre 
of the opposition to the systems which came from Athens. 
And this is what actually happened. The Athenian schools 
of philosophy may be compared with the main column of a 
victorious army ; the Megarians resemble a body of sharp- 
shooters who hover on the enemy's flank, harass his rear- 
guard, and check his advance. To spy out the joints in the 
Athenian harness, to pursue the dogmatic schools Aristo- 
telian, Stoic, Epicurean with a running fire of pungent 
criticism, was a task for which the thinkers of Megara were 
always ready and willing. Perhaps, too, some influence 
should be allowed to the difference of race ; the positive 
Dorian temperament, with its love of clear-cut, precise 
statement, and its tendency to rigidity of ideas formed 
a strong contrast to the greater wealth of thought, the 
greater versatility and suppleness of the Ionian intellect. 


And it may be that the same taste for the grotesque, which 
could on occasion find vent in knockabout farce, lent zest 
to the construction of logical pitfalls. Of all the schools 
which flourished at Athens, the only one towards which the 
Megarians maintained an attitude of habitual friendliness, 
not even in this instance uninterrupted by skirmishes, was 
the Cynic school ; and this, with its clientele of half-breeds, 
proletarians, and cosmopolitans, was precisely the one 
whose connexion with the general life and thought of 
Athens was the slightest. 

Thus the spirit of criticism throve and grew strong in 
the bracing highland air of the little Dorian settlement. 
But its ultimate influence was to extend far beyond the 
bounds of its original home. From it sprang the great 
sceptical movement which, stubbornly true to its real self 
under manifold changes of form, has continued through the 
centuries to work its appointed task. Some positive systems 
it has utterly overthrown, upon others it has forced radical 
revision ; everywhere it has resisted the benumbing influence 
of dogma ; and, in its capacity of a leaven and corrective, has 
rendered service to the progress of thought whose magnitude 
it would be difficult to exaggerate. 

2. The founder of the Megarian school was Euclides. 
He appears to have belonged to the older generation of the 
pupils of Socrates. But it was not by Socrates alone that 
he was influenced. Among the scanty records of his teach- 
ing we find no statement more full of significance than the 
one which ascribes to him a blending of Socratic doctrine 
with Eleatic. Socrates had taught the unity of virtue, and 
its absolute identity with Good. The Eleatics had asserted 
the unity of Being. In the mind of Euclides the two 
doctrines were fused together. He held that the unity of 
Being was identical with the Good. According to trust- 
worthy accounts, he " designated the One Good by many 
names, sometimes speaking of it as Wisdom, sometimes 
as Deity." And the Good constituted for him the whole 
of Being ; to its opposite, the Not-Good, he denied all 
existence. These curt notices require some explanation, 
and supply abundant food for reflexion. First of all, we 


have here the earliest instance of a tendency which left its 
impress on several successive periods of philosophy the 
tendency to retain the teaching of Socrates, but not to rest 
satisfied with it. Socratism was haunted by a sense of its 
own incompleteness. Socrates himself had brushed aside 
the physical and metaphysical speculations of his prede- 
cessors. But his disciples, both of the first and of the 
second generation, resumed the discarded studies, and 
endeavoured to combine them with their master's ethical 
teaching. Not only did this impulse towards fusion give 
rise, as we shall see later, to the Stoic and Epicurean 
schools ; it dominated the life-work of Plato, whose con- 
stant effort was to supplement Socratism by means of the 
earlier forms of thought Heraclitism, Eleaticism, Pytha- 
goreanism. As a richly developed organism, producing 
new and complicated structures at every phase of its 
growth, contrasts with the most elementary types of life, 
so the speculations of Plato contrast with the humbler 
attempts of Euclides. The latter merely ethicized, if the 
term is permissible, the metaphysics of Elea, and supplied 
the ethics of Socrates with a concrete or objective basis. 
That which gained by this procedure was not the Socratic 
doctrine, but the doctrine of the All-One, which, without 
receiving any increase of fruitfulness, was in a manner 
rounded off and carried to its natural completion. For 
Parmenides, the One Existent had been primarily that 
which fills space, and secondly a primordial entity endowed 
with thought ; Melissus had promoted it to the possession 
of feeling and a consciousness of its own blissful state. 
When Euclides the Socratic goes on to identify it with the 
Good, and applies to it the name of Deity, may we not, in 
spite of all the ambiguities attaching to the word "good," 
conclude that to the functions of thought and feeling there 
has now been added an element of will ? We observe, not 
without some amusement, that all the elements of human 
personality which were so strictly banished from the Eleatic 
universe have been carefully reunited, though by no means 
fused into a living personality ; and we recognize the 
astonishing and invincible force of the personifying instinct. 


That which seems to us the strangest feature in this system, 
the denial of the reality of evil, the identification of the 
Not-Good with the non-existent, has no lack of parallels, 
nearer or more remote, modern as well as ancient. The 
great Abelard is famous as the first of the mediaevals who 
essayed to distinguish between the "good" in the ethical 
sense and the " good " as identified with reality by means 
of the mediating conception of perfection. We remember 
how the genius of Augustine was displayed in the attempt 
to represent evil as purely privative. Similarly, there have 
been optimists among the moderns who held evil to be 
only " appearance." Even thinkers of the most recent 
times have not always withstood the temptation to 
confound the utterly distinct spheres of the morally good 
and the merely stable or existence-conserving. This is 
particularly apt to be the case with those inquirers who 
undertake to found ethics upon zoology, and who do not 
scruple to identify the moral virtues with the qualities which 
win success in the struggle for existence. 

The Megarians, as a school, may be described by the 
term Neo-Eleatics. That which was new in their procedure 
was the nature of the subject-matter to which they applied 
the old canons of thought. This is at once apparent from 
a cursory glance at the two chief problems to which these 
philosophers devoted themselves. In technical language 
they are known as the Problem of Inherence and the 
Problem of Predication. Two questions are raised : " How 
can a subject possess many different predicates ? ' and 
" How can a predicate belong to many different subjects ? ' 
For example : " How can a tree be at one and the same 
time green, leafy, fruitful, and so forth ? " and " How can 
the one green, or greenness, be attached, at the same time, 
to many trees, to grass, to rivers, and other things ? ' In 
other words, " How is the unity of a thing to be reconciled 
with the plurality of the attributes which inhere in it ? 
and how is the unity of an attribute to be reconciled 
with the plurality of the things in which it occurs ? ' As 
will be seen, the two questions are at bottom one. It is 
concerned with the relation of unity to plurality. Now, the 


Eleatics had denied all possibility of any such relation. 
Their successors, the Megarians, did the same. The chief 
difference was that the earlier thinkers gave their chief 
attention to the many in succession, to the problem of 
variation and change, and were governed in their treatment 
of it by the two postulates regarding matter which had 
gradually been developed by the nature-studies of the 

Before we proceed, a word of explanation, we had almost 
said of appeasement, may be necessary. For the reader 
may be inclined to protest, with some impatience, that 
these are idle and perversely subtle questions, wilfully and 
violently dragged into the field of discussion by quibblers 
bent on winning cheap triumphs. But such a view of the 
situation may be shown to be altogether wide of the mark. 
These same questions provided constant employment for 
the ancient intellect, and that by no means exclusively 
within the limits of the Megarian school and the cognate 
circle of the early Cynics. In the problem of predication, 
more particularly, we shall see one of the main motives of 
the most illustrious doctrine of the most illustrious among 
Greek thinkers : we shall discover it to be one of the roots of 
Plato's doctrine of ideas. Even when this brilliant creation 
had been given to the world, his mind was far from having 
found satisfaction. The question, " How can the many 
beautiful things participate in the one beauty without the 
latter being torn into shreds and fragments ? ' vexed the 
soul of the great philosopher to the end of his days. From 
the problem of predication, again, there sprang a controversy 
upon the true nature of universal concepts and their relation 
to individual things which occupied the keenest and pro- 
foundest brains of the Middle Ages. Far and wide men 
debated the question with as much warmth as if it had 
been one of practical politics. In the twelfth century, and 
again in the fourteenth, the lecture-rooms of the Sorbonne 
and the convocation-halls of the clergy rang with the 
discussion of it. Lastly, the whole educated world was 
divided by it into two hostile camps, which, under the 
leadership of the Dominican and Franciscan orders, were 


ever ready to rally to the battle-cries of Realism and 
Nominalism. Nor can we take refuge in the supposition 
that the ancient and the mediaeval world were victims of 
an illusion which has spared the moderns. Not so many 
years back, an eminent historian of philosophy emphatically 
rejected the view that the great controversy of the Middle 
Ages can now be treated as old lumber, or as an infantile 
disease which modern thought has outgrown. The main 
problem is regarded by many metaphysicians as still 
unsolved, and, more than that, the purely negative solution 
of it which the Megarians preferred has been championed 
in our own century by a school of philosophy whose 
influence was once powerful and is not yet extinct. Johann 
Friedrich Herbart* and his followers held that "An 
existence, as such, is not only incapable of possessing many 
attributes ; it cannot possess a single attribute distinct from 
itself." And considerable light is thrown on the close 
relationship between Megarian and Eleatic doctrine, when 
we learn that for Herbart the two contradictions which 
"pervade all phenomena, all our empirical concepts," are 
"the contradiction of the thing with many attributes, and 
the contradiction of change." 

3. There is thus no reason for doubting the sincerity of 
the ancient Herbartians ; at the same time, it seems not 
superfluous to give a more exact account of the origin of 
these difficulties, especially as they have become entirely 
foreign to the habits of thought of many of us. The root 
and ground of them is perhaps to be discerned in those 
judgments which have recently been called " contaminating ' 
judgments, or judgments of identity. They are of the 
following type : " The building which I see before me is my 
friend's house ; " " The man of whom I dreamt last night 
is my father ; " " The chief intermediary between ancient 
philosophy and modern culture is Cicero the Roman." In 
such cases the predicate is placed on a footing of complete 
equality with the subject, is asserted to be one with it or 
identified with it ; the word " is " fulfils the same office as 

* Born 1776, died 1841. 


the sign = in arithmetical or algebraical notation. When 
the mind had once become familiar with this use of the 
copula, it was inevitable that it should find a stumbling- 
block in another class of judgments, all those, namely, in 
which the predicate denotes a quality ascribed to the subject, 
as, " This leaf is green," or " Socrates is musically educated." 
Nothing could have been more natural than that the 
precisely similar use of the same linguistic expedient 
in both classes of judgment should in the first instance 
have led to the opinion that its function was the same in 
both. But this view was attended with serious difficulties. 
If "this leaf and "green' were to be connected, so to 
speak, by the sign of equality, a twofold objection presented 
itself. For neither is this leaf green and nothing but green, 
nor is greenness a property of this leaf and nothing else. As 
long as this form of judgment was not kept strictly separate 
from the " contaminating ' type, a deceptive impression 
was produced that there was no room in this leaf for any 
other quality, such as extension, or shape, and that green- 
ness, or the property of being green, which really belongs 
to a great many other things, was contained in this leaf 
exclusively. Thus the employment, in cases incompatible 
with identity, of the form of speech commonly used to 
denote identity raised the double question we have already 
stated How is it possible to ascribe many predicates to 
one subject and many subjects to one predicate ? 

This was not the first difficulty to which the use of the 
verb " to be " gave rise. A prominent use of this word is 
to denote existence, and when employed in this sense it 
expresses duration and continuance, as opposed to all 
manner of mutation and change. Now, the objects of 
sense, at all events, exhibit incessant superficial variations ; 
and the due perception of this fact, in the absence of a 
theory of matter sufficiently advanced to point out the 
persistent substratum, led to a denial of being or existence, 
in the strict sense, to the physical universe. The reader 
has already been made acquainted with this phase of 
thought in connexion with the Eleatic school ; our chief 
reason for recurring to the subject is to show clearly the 


intimate relationship between the earlier problem of change 
and the twofold problem of predication and inherence which 
emerged later on. There is, further, a collateral offshoot 
of the problem of change which deserves, at least, a passing 
mention. The attribution of existence to the varying 
properties of the objects of sense was soon recognized, even 
outside Eleatic circles, as not wholly free from difficulty. 
The double use of the word " is," as copula and as denoting 
persistence, led to such judgments as " This leaf is green " 
being considered illegitimate, because they seemed to 
exclude all possibility of the leaf afterwards turning yellow 
or red. Some, therefore, as, for example, Lycophron (Vol. 
I. p. 493), simply omitted the word " is ' in predication ; 
others evaded the difficulty, and others like it, by employing 
locutions such as " The sun shines," instead of " The sun is 

With regard, however, to the main problem in its two- 
fold form, the linguistic stumbling-block might have been 
soon removed by the simple reflexion that the copula is 
called upon to perform several fundamentally distinct 
functions. What lent the puzzle vitality was the circum- 
stance that the difficulties of language were associated with 
difficulties of thought, and those of no mean order. It was 
not enough to recognize that the qualifying or modifying 
judgments do not imply fusion or contain any statement of 
identity ; the further question presented itself What, then, 
do they contain ? Still more indispensable than the above 
negative result was its positive complement an account of 
the true import of those judgments and of the justification 
we have for enunciating them. What, it might be asked, 
is the integrating bond which gives unity and coherence to 
the many properties, predicates, or attributes in the one 
subject to which they are attached ? And wherein consists 
the unity of a predicate which is affirmed of many, in other 
respects vastly differing subjects ? The phenomenalistic 
doctrines of which our exposition will more than once have 
to take account will compel us to consider the first of these 
problems. The second, the problem of predication in the 
narrow sense, is one which exhibits a far greater wealth of 


development than its fellow, and we shall have to recur to 
it when we come to the Platonic doctrine of ideas. All the 
same, it will be necessary to give at least a sketch of the 
chief phases of its history before we proceed. 

4. Here again we find a difficulty of language and a 
difficulty of thought entwined together. The first is not 
new to the reader. We have already had several occasions 
to notice it (Vol. I. pp. 195, 434). The fact that abstractions 
on the one hand, and the objects of sense on the other, are 
designated by the same part of speech, the noun, at once 
testifies to a corresponding assimilation in the minds of the 
originators of languages, and does not a little to promote 
and perpetuate the same confusion in the minds of those 
who speak them. We talk of whiteness and blackness, of 
heat and cold, as if they were things, and the result is that 
we experience an ever-growing difficulty in recognizing the 
illusion. To this must be added omitting minor con- 
siderations that among the objects of cognition there are 
some of great value, some even of paramount dignity ? 
which can only be designated by substantives, or, at least, 
are commonly so designated. We affirm things to be blue 
or red, but we also speak of their blueness or redness ; we 
speak of the goodness of that which is good and the justice 
of that which is just, and we soon find ourselves driven to 
choose between holding such abstractions to be unreal, and 
regarding them as realities or existences more or less of 
the nature of things. Let us imagine a mind we are 
here approaching the main philosophical problem which 
has long pondered over this riddle, and which finds a 
difficulty in dealing with the world of matter. The many 
and diverse objects of sense, lacking as they do all per- 
manence and continuity, are, on this account alone, held 
in contempt, and denied all share in true Being. How, 
then, do they come to possess common attributes ? from 
what source are order and symmetry, above all, beauty, 
imparted to them ? Let us imagine a mind at grapple 
with this question, and we shall understand how the ground 
was prepared for the vision which flashed on the intellectual 
eye of Plato. The heaven of ideas, that is, of universal 


concepts regarded as real existences, begins to overarch the 
phenomenal world of sense. An intellect of comprehensive 
range, little disposed to the study of detail, but living and 
working among the universals, whether of metaphysics, of 
ethics, or of mathematics, sees in that vision the one thing 
which is the sole reality. But the matter cannot end here. 
The. relations of those higher realities to the lower individual 
objects still need clearing up. Are the former the glorious 
originals, the latter the tame copies ? Or are we to speak 
of an indwelling of the ideas in the things, or a participation 
of the things in the ideas ? These and kindred questions 
give rise to endless discussion. 

But one fine day the shrill voice of dissent intrudes 
upon the conference. Doubts begin to be audibly expressed 
touching the reality of those forms which have revealed 
themselves to the rapt vision of the seer. The individual 
thing, lately banished in disgrace to the realm of shadows, 
reasserts its title to full existence, and claims to be taken 
more seriously than those incorporeal essences which no 
eye has ever seen, and whose reality is vouched for by no 
process of valid proof. A reaction sets in, the force of which 
is in large measure due to the teaching of a sound instinct 
that illusions such as language engenders have to do with 
the matter. It is not with things but with mere names that 
you are dealing : such is the cry that greets the architect of 
this heavenward-soaring edifice of brilliant theory. Horses 
we know, and men we know ; sweet things, cups, tables, are 
not unfamiliar to us. But with your equinity and your 
humanity, with sweetness, cuppishness, and tabularity we 
are unacquainted. Thus exclaims Antisthenes, and he is 
echoed by another writer, favourable to him but hostile to 
Plato, the historian Theopompus. " Nominalism ' is the 
term used to describe this reaction against the form of 
thought called " Realism." As a movement it dates from 
the fourth century ; though the note of protest had been 
sounded earlier, as in certain memorable utterances of the 
so-called sophist Antiphon, which have already engaged our 
attention (Vol. I. p. 434). Sturdy common sense, hostility to 
all that is visionary or extravagant, perhaps, too, a strong 


feeling of individuality for which a particular person, or indeed 
a particular thing of any kind, was the type of complete 
reality, may well have been among the forces which swelled the 
tide of reaction. And it was part of the Cynic temperament 
to press the extreme view, to insist on the radical solution, 
rather than seek for a via media. In every department of 
thought, in morals, politics, or theology, this school could 
tolerate no hint of compromise. In the case of Antisthenes, 
philosophical antagonism to Plato may have been heightened 
by the personal pique to which he gave expression in his 
" Sathon," a violently polemical work, in which he did not 
spare even the name of his great adversary. But we cannot 
decide the question with certainty, any more than we can 
determine who was the aggressor in the quarrel. On the 
other hand, there is a circumstance of a different order to 
which we may safely point as having conditioned his 
nominalism. Antisthenes was influenced by the Eleatics ; 
possibly through the medium of his teacher, Gorgias, him- 
self the pupil of Zeno ; possibly through other channels. 
We learn from an allusion in Plato, of the most unmistake- 
able kind, that he shared with that school its fundamental 
postulate concerning the incompatibility of unity with 
plurality. But while unable to reject this main postulate of 
the Eleatics, he was equally unable to accept their cardinal 
doctrine of the unreality of individual things ; thus the one 
possibility which remained open to him was to take refuge 
in nominalism. For as he could not reconcile the unity of 
an attribute or of a universal concept with the participation 
in it of a host of individual things deemed by him to be 
real, he was under the same necessity of denying the 
objective reality of universals as the Eleatics had been of 
denying that of particular existences. 

5. Closely connected with his solution of what may be 
called the problem of predication in the narrow sense, is his 
logical treatment of the other branch of that problem, that 
of inherence, as it may be termed when regarded from the 
metaphysical point of view. He maintained that of one 
subject there cannot be affirmed many predicates, nor even 
one predicate different from itself. 


There is unambiguous testimony to the effect that he 
held no judgment admissible except those in which the 
subject and the predicate are the same. In other words, he 
is reported to have disallowed all propositions but those of 
the identifying type, such as, " Sweet is sweet ; " " The good 
is good." At this point, we naturally feel some astonish- 
ment, if not dismay. Here is a thinker, the author of many 
works, the preacher of many doctrines, who rejects all the 
forms of assertion which are capable of conveying real 
information, and accepts only those which are void of all 
content, which carry our thought never a step further, but 
leave it to revolve in an aimless circle. From this difficulty, 
if we are not mistaken, the following considerations afford 
a means of escape. 

Antisthenes treated of definitions. Such, for him, is a 
proposition which sets forth " what it (the object of defini- 
tion) is or was." Aristotle, we may remark by the way, 
clearly followed this precedent in constructing his meta- 
physical terminology. Antisthenes thus drew a distinction 
between the simple elements of knowledge and the com- 
binations of them. The former, which he compared with 
elementary speech-sounds, were regarded by him as in- 
capable of being subsumed under determinate concepts. In 
their case the question " What ? " had no answer. They 
were objects of perception, not of cognition in the strict 
sense of the word. A man \vho inquired their nature could 
only be referred to his own experience ; what was new and 
strange to him could only be brought to his knowledge by 
a statement of the resemblances between it and other things 
with which his experience had already familiarized him. 
Supposing, for example, that some one who had never seen 
silver was to be taught the whiteness or the metallic lustre 
of that substance, the right thing to do would be to tell 
him that it was " like tin." The case was otherwise with 
combinations or complexes of experiences which, in pursu- 
ance of the same metaphor, he compared with syllables. 
Just as the latter might be adequately taken account of by 
pointing to their constituent elements, so also might the 
syntheses of experience, the only true " objects of cognition." 


This cognition was, indeed, nothing else than a conscious- 
ness of the elements of which the objects were compounded. 
All that one had to do was to enumerate them, which, as he 
remarked, was a " long story." The expression is not with- 
out a suggestion of contempt, and was no doubt deliberately 
used in disparagement of the great significance attached by 
Socrates and many Socratics to the construction of defini- 
tions. On the substratum of these empirical syntheses, the 
transcendental reality of them, to use the modern termi- 
nology, these nominal definitions have nothing to tell us. 
Antisthenes, like many modern nominalists, ignored these 
questions altogether. He would also seem to have neglected 
the distinction between those attributes which belong to the 
essence of a thing and those which have a merely external 
or accidental attachment to it. Each new lesson of ex- 
perience could, on these principles, be incorporated in the 
meaning of a name, and be ever afterwards regarded as 
comprised in its connotation. From this standpoint we can 
understand how Antisthenes was able to formulate or employ 
propositions containing new information, and yet declare them 
to be merely identical judgments. Let us imagine, for 
example, that the discovery had been made in his day that 
whales, in spite of their fish-like form, do not lay eggs, but 
bring their young into the world alive. He would at once 
have found room for the new attribute in the nominal defi- 
nition of a whale, and thenceforth he would have been fully 
justified in regarding the proposition, "Whales (that is to 
say, creatures having many points of resemblance to fishes, 
but producing living young) bring their young into the 
world alive," as an identical judgment. Old truths, such 
as "All men are mortal," could be treated by him in a 
similar manner. He would have declared mortality to be 
part of the meaning of the word " man." Thus propositions 
such as in modern terminology are called synthetic (that 
is, involving a putting together) were for him transformed 
into propositions of the kind we describe as analytic 
because they involve a breaking up into parts. 

These considerations will serve to illustrate another 
doctrine which is ascribed to Antisthenes. He is reported 


as having maintained that all contradiction is impossible. 
For, if two persons use the same name, there are two con- 
ceivable alternatives. They may use that name in precisely 
the same sense, with full and concordant knowledge of its 
import ; in that case the harmony of thought will neces- 
sarily produce harmony of utterance. But if this condition 
is not fulfilled, the two persons are not speaking of the 
same thing ; and there is no contradiction in making 
different affirmations of different things. This is the 
furthest point up to which we can follow the Antisthenic 
theory of knowledge with any certainty. Any advance 
beyond this is checked both by the meagreness of the 
sources, and by difficulties of a critical order. The allusions 
contained in the writings of Plato are not meant to be taken 
as strictly historical, and that which is historical in them is 
by no means easy to separate, with any exactness, from the 
additions and modifications of a poet-philosopher who 
always allowed himself a free hand in dealing with facts. 
The statement that Antisthenes placed the " investigation 
of names ' in the forefront of his theory of knowledge is 
sufficiently intelligible from what we have already said. 
It by no means justifies us in transforming a thinker who 
manifestly set out from Eleatic premisses into an adherent 
of the anti-Eleatic Heraclitus, or a nominalist who con- 
trasted names with realities into a champion of the nature- 
theory of language which regarded names as the truest 
copies of things. 

6. The critical examination of these doctrines need not 
detain us long. Both their weakness and their strength 
are on the surface. It was something gained merely to 
have abandoned the exclusive investigation of concepts. 
Sole devotion to such investigations, to speak more exactly, 
would in all probability have brought about a wide prevalence 
of such faults as Aristotle castigated, severely but not unjustly, 
in a passage which we have already quoted (Vol. I. p. 319). 
The supreme end of all scientific endeavour is the know- 
ledge of the order of the world, in the widest sense of the 
phrase, the gaining of some insight into the laws of succes- 
sion and coexistence which obtain in the physical as well as 


in the psychical sphere. The teaching of Antisthenes may 
be described as a small step in this direction, because it laid 
exclusive stress on the combinations of empirical data, not 
on the mere elements of them, and because it shelved the 
question, which transcends all experience, of their real 
essence. Ontological speculation, a relatively unfertile 
study at the best, was thus thrust on one side, and its 
neglect tended, in principle at least, to promote inquiry 
into the connexions of phenomena. It is true that this 
advance if we may so term it assumed a form which 
gave occasion to well-grounded objections directed against 
what has always been the weak side of nominalism, namely, 
its tendency to suggest that science is in reality nothing 
more than a well-constructed language " une langue bien 
faite," to use the words of Condillac. Thus, in our example, 
the truly important thing is the discovery that the 
characteristic of producing living young coexists with the 
form of a fish, not the mere fact that an old word 
thereby receives a new meaning. But this truth tends 
to be obscured by a procedure which, instead of giving 
prominence to the above synthesis as such, passes lightly 
over it, packs it into the definition of a word, and sub- 
ordinates it to the newly acquired opportunity for analysis. 
Such a procedure gives at least no guarantee that the work 
of ascertaining facts and estimating evidence shall be 
appreciated at its true worth and allowed that position in 
the mind of the inquirer which is its due. But the mischief 
lies still deeper. Let us concede to our nominalist full 
justification in his protest against the regarding of universals 
as things, against the hypostatizing or objectifying of them ; 
we have still a point to make against him. Even though 
he may see nothing but names where his opponents see 
entities, the common use by mankind of those general 
names cannot be a mere arbitrary caprice. There must be 
some necessity, either in the mind or outside it, which has 
dictated the employment of such names, and it is for our 
nominalist to tell us what that necessity is. This challenge 
was taken up, in the Middle Ages, by Peter Abelard,* who 

* Born 1079, died 1142. 


hit on that compromise between nominalism and realism 
which is known as conceptualism. The counterparts of 
general names are, according to this system, on the sub- 
jective side universal concepts, and on the objective side 
uniformities or congruities of things a theory which was 
afterwards championed by John Locke, and which, properly 
speaking, merely restores the natural unsophisticated view 
of the matter, freed from foreign accretions. But not even 
here could thought find rest. When men began to subject 
universal concepts to a closer scrutiny, a new question (first 
formulated with any precision by Bishop Berkeley) presented 
itself: Do we really possess the power of constructing such 
universal concepts ? or is that to which we give the name 
merely a conglomerate of many individual ideas derived 
from sense, perhaps nothing more than a single idea, of 
whose distinguishing peculiarities we make abstraction, in 
order that we may use it as a representative of the class 
to which it belongs ? Thus from the same deep well arose 
a continual succession of ever-fresh problems, with which 
the minds of thinkers have busied themselves without 
ceasing. And if we have dwelt on them at considerable 
length, our object has been to guard, as emphatically as 
possible, against leaving the impression that the paradoxes 
of those early solutions can with any show of justice be 
attributed to a vain love of paradox as such, or to a desire 
to win applause by brilliant exhibitions of intellectual 

7. When two persons do the same thing, it is the same 
with a difference. We are reminded of this saying when 
we compare Antisthenes with the Megarians. The former 
was an Empiricist, who set out from the presuppositions of 
the Eleatic method ; the latter were opponents of Empiri- 
cism, who firmly adhered to the Eleatic results. They were 
entirely at one with him in his denial of the compatibility of 
unity with plurality and in his deductions from that denial, 
but in nothing else. Of the points of contact between the 
later representatives of the two tendencies, and of their 
mutual approach, we shall have to speak in the sequel. 
The Megarians inherited yet another legacy from the 


Eleatics in the Zenonian dialectic which they cultivated, 
and which their opponents condemned under the name of 
Eristic. This was the most conspicuous part of their work, 
and it left its stamp on the school of Megara in the eyes of 
posterity. What their guiding motives may have been, we 
are in many cases no longer able to determine. One of 
the chief of them was no doubt the same as that which had 
governed Zeno in his pioneer labours, the desire to expose 
the contradictions which, to use the language of Herbart, 
traverse the whole fabric of our empirical concepts. The 
keenness and nimbleness of intellect which they thus 
developed was pressed into the service of controversy ; and, 
lastly, they probably found some stimulus in the mere joy 
of detecting ambiguities of expression and obscurities of 
thought. These thinkers were never remarkable for breadth 
of interests or many-sided productivity. But they devoted 
themselves with ever-increasing assiduity to a task more 
congenial to their character of strict, one might almost say 
rigid formalists that of laying bare, with merciless severity, 
all the delinquencies, of language or of matter, committed 
by those outside their own circle. They became a race of 
logical martinets, whose criticism was not without its terrors 
for Zeno the Stoic, or for Epicurus, and whose earnest 
endeavours after microscopic exactitude imposed an ofttimes 
unwelcome yoke on minds of greater fertility than their 

At the head of this group of fighting-cocks stood a man 
who was noted for his personal gentleness Euclides. Yet 
he was by no means deficient in keenness of intellect. He 
clearly discerned the laxity of the Socratic induction, 
against which he urged an objection that may be reproduced 
as follows : Either the analogy amounts to complete identity, 
and then it is better to draw our conclusions from the thinsr 


itself than from the objects chosen to illustrate it ; or else 
the identity is incomplete, and then the comparison intro- 
duces a surplus a surplus, we may add, which tends to con- 
fuse our judgment. To take a concrete example, he would 
have preferred to deduce the necessity of expert know- 
ledge in statesmen from a consideration of the governing 


facts of political life, not from the halting analogies 
supplied by the callings of the physician, the pilot, the 
husbandman, and the like, in which partial resemblances are 
accompanied by fundamental differences (cf. p. 141). For 
the rest, the only other feature of his method known to 
us is his preference for attacking the conclusions of an 
adversary rather than his premisses a piece of information 
from which we may at least gather how great a space was 
filled by controversy in his works, written, we are told, in 
dialogue form, as well as in his oral teaching. Of his pupils 
the best known is Eubulides, who probably confined himself 
to lecturing, as no writings of his are mentioned. Among 
those who enjoyed his instruction, but did not become pro- 
fessional philosophers, were the orator Demosthenes and an 
historian named Euphantus. He is generally regarded as 
the author of certain famous fallacies which we shall now 
have to take into careful consideration. To us, who from 
our youth upwards have had our fill, perhaps more than our 
fill, of logical and grammatical pabulum, many of these pro- 
ductions of ancient ingenuity may seem somewhat flat and 
stale. And we are somewhat too ready to assume a wilful 
neglect of distinctions which, though familiar enough to 
us, had in those days not yet been drawn or generally 

Eubulides devoted his chief attention to those arguments 
by which he sought to illustrate, in Zeno's manner, the 
difficulties bound up with our apprehension of the world of 
sense. Among these we must place the argument of " The 
Heap " (Sorites), an argument which deeply impressed both 
contemporaries and posterity, on which the subtle logician 
Chrysippus wrote a treatise in three books, without, as far 
as we can judge, ever really mastering the difficulties raised 
by it, and in face of which Cicero was still practically help- 
less. The question was as follows : If two grains of wheat 
are a small number of such grains, may we not say the same 
of three ? And if of three, why not of four ? And so the 
catechism proceeds till we arrive at ten, when we are asked, 
by way of application How can ten grains make a heap? 
Another form of the same argument goes by the name of 


" The Bald-head." Who has a bald head ? Surely not the 
man who has lost but a single hair. Nor yet he who has 
lost only two, or three, or four, and so on. If, then, it is 
concluded, no addition or subtraction of a unity can trans- 
form a small number of wheat-grains into a heap, or a full 
head of hair into a bald head, how is it possible that either 
transition should ever be accomplished ? This argument, 
to which the Stoics gave a name which we may render 
"the Theorem of Continuity," was naturally illustrated by 
a great variety of examples ; thus we learn from Cicero 
that it was applied with equal effect to the antitheses of 
rich and poor, of famous and obscure, of long and short, of 
broad and narrow, and many other pairs of opposites. In 
the eyes of its author the theorem without doubt possessed 
the highest significance, and ranked as a new proof of the 
contradictory nature of empirical concepts, on a par with the 
cognate grain of millet argument devised by Zeno, with 
which the reader is already familiar (Vol. I. pp. 192, seq.). 
For our part, we hold this piece of reasoning to be worthy 
of the closest attention. In order to judge it rightly, we 
have to draw a distinction between two classes of cases a 
distinction which may be easily explained in connexion 
with the main instance, the Heap argument itself. If we 
are to understand by the word " heap " a confused, indistinct 
assemblage, then this confusedness or indistinctness is a 
quality admitting of degrees, and we can return a very 
simple answer to the question put to us. We say that this 
quality does actually increase and decrease with the number 
of objects. The collection becomes more confused by each 
addition of a unit, more distinct by each subtraction of one, 
that is, it becomes more or less of a heap. But if it be 
desired to give a precise definition of a heap, we may apply 
the term to a collection of objects, the number of which is 
too great to be taken in at a glance. On this view there 
exists an absolute limit, different, to be sure, for different 
persons, or for the same person in different psychical states, 
but perfectly definite for a given person in a given state, 
and at this limiting number the collection will begin or 
cease to be a heap. For the Bakai'ri Indian, who cannot 

THE "HEAP." 191 

count up to three without the help of his fingers, this 
threshold will occupy a very different position from that 
which it will have in the case of a trained observer who has 
had practice in this class of experiment, or of an arithmetical 
virtuoso like Base, capable of counting several dozen 
objects at a single glance. 

In the first case the fallacy derives its plausibility from 
the fact that language misleads us into taking differences of 
degree for absolute differences. And even in the second 
case a cognate difficulty presents itself. For the fact to 
which we have just called attention, that the same collection 
may be a heap for A and not a heap for B, is an almost 
fatal stumbling-block for the unschooled mind, held fast in 
the shackles of language, which straightway looks for an 
objective existence behind every word. But, even apart 
from this, our second case involves a real, material difficulty 
almost identical with the one we have already encountered 
in the grain of millet argument. For it is a matter of not 
unreasonable astonishment that a purely quantitative 
difference, which, on the analogy of numberless similar 
instances, we might have expected to perceive only as a 
more or a less, should produce a qualitatively new effect 
upon our consciousness at a definite stage of the increase or 
decrease. In the one case, consequent upon an increase of 
intensity in a disturbance of the air, there emerges a 
previously non-existent sensation of sound ; in the other, 
as a consequence of an increase in the number of wheat- 
grains, we have the loss of a previously existent ability to 
count them at a glance. By such phenomena as these our 
attention is directed to a fact, not a little surprising in 
itself, at variance with the most familiar analogies, and 
therefore extremely perplexing in the earlier stages of 
thought, the fact, namely, that in certain, by no means 
isolated, cases a change which, on the objective side, is 
purely quantitative, may have for its result a qualitative 
change in sensation, in the faculty of judging, and, we may 
add, even in the emotional state. For it is possible by such 
means to transform a pleasurable feeling into its opposite ; 
as when a gentle tickling, felt as agreeable, is made painful, 


or even unbearable, by mere increase of intensity, or when 
a luxuriously warm bath is turned into a torture by mere 
rise of temperature. 

Finally, we have to note another effect of that relative 
and subjective element which we have already met with 
in the different capacities for discrimination of different 
individuals, and in the practice or want of practice of any 
one observer, his state of undivided or distracted attention. 
Our mode of appreciating riches or poverty, greatness or 
smallness, and so on, varies very considerably with the 
materials for comparison which we have at our disposal 
in each case. This circumstance still further narrows the 
possibility of returning an unambiguous answer to the 
question At what point of such and such an increase or 
decrease does a given predicate begin to be affirmable of a 
given subject ? But the difficulty vanishes the moment 
we replace the positive by the comparative. The thing 
or being considered will actually become richer or poorer, 
greater or smaller, broader or narrower, with every addition 
or subtraction of even a single unit of the appropriate 

It is not a metaphysical, but a logical difficulty which is 
embodied in a sophism w r hich has been much canvassed 
under the name of the " Liar." It runs thus : " If a man 
lies and says he lies, does he lie or does he tell the truth ? ' 
It is made to appear that the man does both simultaneously, 
which was held to be a logical impossibility. One's first 
idea is to answer, " The statement about the false state- 
ment is true, but the latter remains false all the same." 
Or if it is habitual lying, not a particular lie, that is 
referred to, we may answer, with Aristotle, " There is no 
impossibility in supposing that the man habitually lies, but 
that in this particular instance (in the proclamation of his 
own mendacity) he is telling the truth." But, on the first 
hypothesis at any rate, the difficulty lies deeper. Can we 
this is the question describe as mendacious an utterance 
which is so designated by the utterer himself? First 
we must get a clear idea of what a lie is. We must take 
the conception to pieces, so to speak, and see what are 



the elements that compose it. There are two of them : the 
divergence from truth of a statement, and the accompany- 
ing intention to deceive. In the case before us, the first is 
present and the second absent. Or rather, as in the Greek 
word for "to speak falsely " the subjective element is less 
prominent than in our " to lie," the truth-contradicting 
nature of a statement ought to have been distinguished 
from its capacity to deceive. The words contain an 
untruth, but the accompanying confession takes away 
from them the power of producing the ordinary effect of 
an untruth. Elements usually found associated together, 
and in such association making up the every-day meaning 
of the word " to lie," are for once disjoined. In this dis- 
junction lies the peculiarity of the case. One might almost 
say that the supposed statement leaves the mouth of the 
speaker as an untruth, but does not reach the mind of the 
hearer as such. The question thus did not admit of a 
simple answer, but only of one hedged round with 
numerous reservations. The fact that Chrysippus, and 
Theophrastus as well, wrote bulky volumes on this very 
sophism shows that there was a stage of thought in which 
the distinctions we have just been suggesting were not easy 
to establish. Men were not as yet possessed with that 
distrust of language which animatse us moderns and 
frequently causes us to see in words a far from adequate 
expression of the facts. On the contrary, there reigned a 
simple and unsuspecting faith that the range of an idea 
and the range of that word which answers to it roughly and 
on the whole, must in every case exactly coincide. And 
yet we might just as well expect political and natural 
boundaries to be identical with each other, not only often, 
but always, and without exception. 

A sophism of somewhat similar type is the one known 
as the " Electra," or as "The Man in Disguise." Suppose 
Electra, the heroine of the tragedies by Sophocles and 
Euripides bearing her name, as also of the " Grave-offering " 
of ^Eschylus, suppose this Electra to be asked whether 
she knows or does not know her brother, who has been 
brought up at a distance from her ; but now stands, a 


stranger, before her : her answer may be shown to be false 
in every possible case. If she answers in the negative, she 
lays herself open to the rejoinder that she does know 
Orestes, for she is well aware that he is her brother ; if she 
answers in the affirmative, then it may be put to her that 
she does not know Orestes, for she is unaware that the man 
before her is Orestes himself. By " knowing Orestes " is 
meant, in the first instance, being aware of the family tie 
which connects her with Orestes, but, in the second case, 
the identifying Orestes with the stranger now present. The 
confusion is increased by the circumstance that the two 
pieces of knowledge, that of the family tie and that of 
the external appearance of the near relation, usually go 
together. Another variety of the same argument is " The 
Man in Disguise." My father stands disguised before me, 
and if I am asked whether I know my father, my answer 
must inevitably be open to objection. The word " to know ' 
is here used, firstly, of the knowledge of an object ; secondly, 
of the knowledge of its presence. Here, too, the effect of 
the mere equivocation is strengthened by the fact that 
usually I can recognize what I know, though in the present 
case I am prevented from doing so by a special contrivance. 
This sophism seems transparent enough to us, but that it 
made no slight impression on those who were contemporary 
with its invention, and on posterity as well, appears from 
several considerations. For example, Epicurus, in an 
epistemological section of his chief work, " On Nature," 
vigorously denounces the " Sophist who propounded the 
Man in Disguise." 

Another argument of but slender value is known as 
" The Horned Man." " Have you lost your horns ? ' 
" No." " Then you must have them ; for what one has not 
lost, one must possess." The same fallacy was perhaps a 
little more effective in the following shape : " Have you 
ceased beating your father ? ' When the person interro- 
gated had sufficiently recovered from his first indignation 
at the suggestion to be brought to answer a plain Yes or 
No, it became possible so it was thought to wring from 
him a confession that he had been guilty of that most 


horrible impiety. For " I have not ceased " was construed 
as equivalent to "I continue," since the victim was not 
allowed to append the explanation : " The only reason why 
I have not ceased is that I never began." Even this piece 
of dialectical horse-play is not without a value of its own. 
It forces us to recognize that there are questions which 
cannot be answered by a bare Yes or No without producing 
unintentionally a false secondary impression. Such ques- 
tions should not be called unmeaning, but misleading. In 
ordinary life the only questions asked and answered are 
those which rest on some valid presupposition. If a man 
denies having lost an article, or having ceased from an 
action, there is behind his words a tacit implication that he 
had formerly possessed the article or performed the action. 
Similarly in the question, " Is Napoleon in the next room ? " 
and in the perfectly correct negative reply, we see an 
expression of the assumption that the subject of discourse 
is some person now in this house, or else in this town, or at 
the very least somewhere upon earth, and not a man who 
has been dead for many years. The confusion of negation 
absolute with such negation as involves a partial affirma- 
tion is even to-day by no means unheard of in philosophical 
argumentation. As we shall possibly have occasion to show 
later on, it is the neglect of this very distinction that some- 
times endows the so-called axiom of the " Excluded 
Middle," in itself an utterly barren formula, with an 
illegitimate content, and makes it the source of arbitrary 
metaphysical assumptions. 

8. The last-named variety of the " Horned Man ' is 
ascribed to Alexinus, one of the most combative among 
the Megarians, who was named in jest Elenxinus (from the 
Greek tA^^oe, refutation), and whose witty and important 
polemic against a doctrine o/ the Stoic Zeno will occupy 
our attention in the sequel. But prior to Alexinus is 
Stilpo, the contemporary of the Cynics Crates and Metro- 
cles. Next to Euclides, the founder of the school, he 
enjoyed the highest consideration of any of the Megarians ; 
his personal character won him universal reverence. He 
revived the study of ethical problems, herein differing from 


all other members of the school, and declared " freedom 
from emotion " (aVaflaa) to be the aim of life. Although 
in this point he approximated to the Cynics, he was dis- 
tinguished from them by the fact that he avoided neither 
civic nor family life, so that his contemporaries were able 
to call him " a thorough man of the world." There is a 
lamentable disproportion between our knowledge of his 
work and the reputation he enjoyed among the ancients. 
The princes of his time, especially the first of the Ptolemies, 
paid him high honour; "all Hellas looked up to him ;" 
" when he came to Athens, all the mechanics left their 
workshops in order to see him ; " he was stared at " like 
a freak of nature." On the other hand, out of his nine 
dialogues (they were not distinguished by any charm of 
style) we possess but a single miserable little sentence : 
" Then Metrocles turned on Stilpo in a fury." Even these 
few words tell us something. We learn from them that 
Stilpo introduced his own personality in at least some of 
his dialogues a thing which Plato never did. This mode 
of writing dialogue was also that of Aristotle, and we may 
observe, in parenthesis, it must have been practised by 
Diogenes ; otherwise he could not have treated, in his 
" Panther," of the oracular response that had been imparted 
to him (cf. p. 156). There is a further point in which Stilpo 
reminds us of Diogenes. Just as the latter named one of 
his dialogues " Ichthyas," after a member of the Megarian 
school, so Stilpo wrote a dialogue for which the title was 
supplied by the name of the Cynic Metrocles. In both 
cases the object aimed at was doubtless that of settling an 
account with an adherent of another school. This settle- 
ment of accounts can hardly have been carried out in a 
hostile spirit, for the relations of the two schools were 
fairly friendly, in spite of occasional friction, and in spite of 
the raillery with which Crates deluged even Stilpo in his 
burlesque gallery of philosophers. In any case the two 
last-named men were near enough to each other in their 
teaching to leave a lasting impression on one and the same 
mind. Zeno, the founder of the Stoa, was a pupil of Stilpo 
no less than of Crates. In him there took place a complete 


fusion of the two tendencies which had already drawn 
close to each other. This approximation was assisted by 
the circumstance that Stilpo, setting out from the epistemo- 
logical postulates of the Eleatics and Megarians, had 
arrived at the same negative conclusions as had been 
accepted in the Cynic school since the time of Antisthenes. 
For he, too, gave the most serious attention to the 
problem of predication, and he ended, precisely as Anti- 
sthenes did, by denying the possibility of predication 
altogether. Like Antisthenes, again, he argued against 
the substantial existence of generic concepts, not merely, 
we may be sure, in the particular shape which this doctrine 
took in the hands of Plato, but in its most general form. 
At this point we must endeavour to place the difficulties of 
the problem, as felt in that stage of thought, in a still 
clearer light than was thrown upon them at the beginning 
of the present chapter. We have not yet mentioned the 
case in which the predicate is expressed by a noun instead 
of an adjective. But this is the very case in which the 
bewildering spell of language is exerted most potently. 
Two sentences such as, " A is a man " and " B is a man " (in 
which the " a " is a modern addition, foreign to the Greek, 
which does not possess an indefinite article), gave rise to an 
impression that A was thereby completely identified with 
B, and that the two were fused into a single entity. 
Men were helpless in face of the double question : " How 
is it possible supposing these two propositions to be true 
for A and B to be two entities, and how is it possible for 
either of them to be anything else beside man ? ' Few will 
quarrel with Stilpo for not being satisfied with the Aristo- 
telian solution of the problem, according to which the 
universal, Man, is immanent, as " secondary substance," in 
each particular man. On the contrary, all predication of the 
kind was for him as inadmissible as it was for Abelard, who 
declared that to predicate a thing of a thing was monstrous 
(" rem de re praedicari monstrum "). He even thought that 
in the phrase " to be a man " nothing was conveyed. The 
phrase did not apply to this man more than to that ; it 
therefore applied to neither of them ; therefore to no one at 


all. In the same way, it seemed to him that the individual 
Socrates was divided into two by the two statements: 
" Socrates is white " (that is, identical with the white), and 
" Socrates is musical " (that is, identical with the musical). 
It is fortunate for the subsequent reputation of the 
Megarian school that these paradoxes, the boldest of those 
which proceeded from its adherents, were propounded by 
Stilpo, who is protected by the unlimited reverence paid 
him by all antiquity from the suspicion of having merely 
indulged in an idle and wanton exhibition of subtlety. In 
reality, these were serious difficulties with which he had to 
wrestle, difficulties which occupied the energies of the whole 
of that generation and of a considerable part of the Middle 
Ages, and which no one can hope to master unless he will 
go back to phenomena, and free himself altogether from the 
misleading tyranny of language. If, however, we may 
believe a well-informed writer, Stilpo's negations had for 
their positive background the old Eleatic doctrine of the 
All-One ; and thus the absurdities which he believed him- 
self to have detected in the world of sense were no doubt 
welcomed by him as so many corroborations of that 

9. It is possible, nevertheless, that, while he held the 
processes and the relations of the world of experience to be 
incomprehensible, he did not deny their reality. This, at 
least, clearly seems to have been the position adopted by 
his contemporary and fellow-pupil Diodorus, surnamed 
Cronus. The latter permits us to say of a movement " it 
has taken place," but not " it is taking place." Surely the 
only meaning we can attach to this distinction is that he 
recognizes motion as a fact, but denies that it is thinkable 
or conceivable. We may disregard the fact that to this 
dialectician is ascribed a corpuscular theory, involving the 
assumption of indivisible particles, and contradicting the 
fundamental doctrine of the Eleatics ; for it may at least be 
regarded as probable that Diodorus merely admitted that 
theory for the sake of argument, in order to attack the 
conceivability of motion on that hypothesis too. His argu- 
ments on the subject differ little from those of Zeno, and 


we consider it unnecessary to pass them in review. There 
is, however, one exception. Unfortunately, it happens that 
this one new proof is not easy to understand, while the 
exposition of it in the writer who is our authority for it, is 
by no means free from obscurities. It begins with the 
distinction between the pure motion of a mass, that is, 
motion shared by all the parts of it, and preponderating 
motion ; the statement is then made that the latter must 
precede the former. The hypothesis is then set up that two 
particles of a body are moving, while a third is at rest. The 
next assumption is that the inertia of the particle which is 
not moving is overcome by the motion of the other two. A 
fourth particle, hitherto at rest, is now set in motion by the 
first three. The four moving particles then disturb the 
peace of a fifth, and the process is repeated on a continually 
increasing scale until the motion extends to the whole of 
the ten thousand particles composing the mass. " It would 
be absurd," the argument concludes, "to say that a body 
is moving preponderatingly (by which must be meant, in 
virtue of the preponderating majority of its particles), of 
which 9998 particles are (originally) at rest, and only two 
in motion." Diodorus would thus appear to have con- 
sidered the above-described process absurd, because an over- 
whelming majority is governed and overpowered by an all 
but evanescent minority. If this really was his meaning, 
he must have had a very childish idea of mechanics. For 
the process described by him is so little suited to the service 
of an argument against the possibility of motion in general, 
that it provides us with a representation, perfectly true to 
the facts, of the propagation of motion from a given point 
onwards, and of the gradual increase of motion. And there 
is absolutely nothing at all which is contrary to reason in 
that process if we suppose either that the impulse, which 
acts directly on only two particles, or even on a single one, 
is strong enough in itself to overcome the inertia of an 
enormous number of particles, or that the same effect is 
produced less by the strength of the original impact than 
by the absence of adhesive or frictional resistance combined 
with a latent tendency to motion in the particles at rest. 


Take, for example, the case of an avalanche ; here the first 
impulse is exceedingly small, but it is enough to occasion 
the fall of a great mass of snow lying loosely on an inclined 
plane. Or perhaps the real difficulty with Diodorus was 
to understand how the transmission is effected when an 
impulse, primarily manifesting itself as the motion of a few 
particles, and, as far as our perception goes, exhausting 
itself in such motion, is, nevertheless, communicated to a 
large mass. But in view of the inadequacy of our single 
source of information, it seems hardly worth while to 
elaborate hypotheses on the subject, still less to discuss the 
problem itself and the difficulties which may have attached 
to it at that early stage of thought. 

Of much greater importance is the argument which 
Diodorus directed against the concept of possibility. Here 
we prefer to pass at once to the conclusion, and leave the 
process of inference by which it was reached to be con- 
sidered afterwards. Cicero, in writing to his friend Varro, 
jestingly alludes to that doctrine as follows : " You must 
know that if you are going to visit me, your coming is a 
necessity ; otherwise, your coming would be in the number 
of the impossibilities." The possible was for Diodorus 
coextensive with the actual ; nothing that did not actually 
happen was to be called possible. We can well understand 
how so paradoxical a thesis gave rise to a fierce contro- 
versy, in which the close affinity of the subject to all the 
puzzles of fate and free will inflamed the passions of the 
disputants to fever heat. But at this distance of time we 
need have no great difficulty in recognizing that this pro- 
position is only a profession of faith in the universal empire 
of causality, couched, it must be admitted, in terms which 
lend themselves very readily to misuse. If an event which 
we designate as possible never becomes actual, then one or 
other of the conditions necessary to its realization must 
have been lacking at every moment ; in other words, its 
realization has not been possible. How is it, then, that in 
spite of all that, we continually distinguish between the 
realities of the future and its possibilities ? and that we often 
speak of the latter without regard to the former ? No 


doubt it is, in the first place, our ignorance, our limited 
vision of the future, that is responsible for this distinction. 
But, in the present connexion, this point of view may be 
ignored. It played no part in the ancient controversies 
on the subject ; the pros and cons were discussed on the 
assumption that our knowledge of the future has no limit. 
But even on this assumption, the keen-witted Stoic Chry- 
sippus had something to urge against the proposition of 
Diodorus. The signet-ring on my finger, so he protested, 
may remain unbroken to all eternity, but it is breakable all 
the same. The mere possibility of its being broken, and 
the realization of that possibility at some future date, are 
two different things. Without any doubt Chrysippus was 
perfectly right, and we are all of us perfectly right in 
thinking and speaking of possibilities, capacities, forces, and 
powers without regard to their realization, their exertion, 
their translation into actual and palpable fact. But the 
proposition of Diodorus is also perfectly true. The contra- 
diction between the two assertions may be resolved by 
a distinction which is not far to seek. Actuality and 
possibility coincide as soon as we envisage the totality of 
the factors which are concerned in the happening or the 
failure to happen of any one isolated event. If the ring of 
Chrysippus remains unbroken to all time, some one of the 
conditions requisite for the fracture must be always in 
abeyance, and the fracture is therefore impossible. It is 
very different if we limit our survey, and consider only a 
portion of the conditions which must be fulfilled before a 
given process can begin. The case is just the same with 
what we may almost call the complementary question Is 
there, or is there not, such a thing as chance ? We all of 
us answer this question in the negative, so far as the word 
" chance " is understood to imply a denial of universal, 
exceptionless causality. But yet we make use of the idea 
every day and every hour ; and here again we are entirely 
within our rights so long as we direct our attention, not to 
the sum of things, or to a comprehensive circle of processes, 
but to a narrowly bounded region of fact. 

We call it an accident when a dream is fulfilled. But we 


must not, by the use of this word, dispute that both dream 
and fulfilment are causally conditioned. What we deny is 
that the two chains of causation are linked together, and 
that we have any justification in concluding from a recur- 
rence of the dream to a recurrence of the fulfilment. An 
orchard glows with luxuriant wealth of blossom ; a May 
frost blights the promised harvestage. In such a case we 
speak of an unfortunate accident, without in the least 
wishing to imply that the fatal spring-frost was sent other- 
wise than by causal necessity to destroy that which exist- 
ing factors had up to now been able to produce. The 
courageous act which saves a human being from death 
threatened by fire or water is a fortunate accident relatively 
to the person saved, though it may be the natural and 
necessary outcome of the character and habits of the 
rescuer. And, in general, the cases in which we speak of 
accident or chance are those where a group of causes, in 
itself adapted to produce certain effects, is interfered with, 
and its operation nullified by a second, unrelated group of 
causes. Turning now to the mode of proof employed by 
Diodorus, we find it to have been something like the 
following : All that is past is what it is of necessity ; its 
being otherwise belongs to the realm of the impossible ; 
but the possible cannot proceed from or be caused by the 
impossible ; therefore neither can the present or the future 
be other than they respectively are or will be ; the notion 
of mere possibility thus falls to the ground. The defects of 
this proof are sufficiently obvious. But we have not the 
slightest ground for assuming that the author of the argu- 
ment recognized its fallacious character. Why should he 
have been more sharp-sighted than the half-dozen dialec- 
ticians who treated of his thesis after him, with as it would 
seem entirely fruitless labour ? Our criticism, however, 
will be somewhat to this effect. If in the premisses necessity 
is to be understood as causal necessity, the argument 
assumes to begin with the very truth it is intended to 
prove. It is what the logicians call an argument in a circle, 
a petitio prindpii. This, too, is the most favourable judg- 
ment we can pass on the demonstration, which, on such a 



construction, is as harmless as it is unnecessary, being merely 
a roundabout mode of proving that which, for a believer in 
the unlimited sovereignty of cause, needs no proof whatever. 
It is otherwise if we understand by necessity and this seems 
to have been the meaning of Diodorus the special irrevo- 
cability which belongs to the past as such. The argument 
must then be ranged in that large class of fallacies that 
spring from the a priori prejudice requiring the effect to re- 
semble the cause a rule which holds good only for a limited, 
though important, category of natural phenomena, as in the 
conservation of matter and of energy. The invalidity of 
the argument, so construed, is immediately obvious. In 
exactly the same way, it might be proved that the past 
cannot give rise either to the present or the future. For 
how, it might be asked, can there proceed from the past 
that which is contrary to it, or not-past, that is to say, either 
the present or the future ? 

But we have not yet finished with that much-discussed 
proposition. It still remains to inquire what motive may 
have led Diodorus to the formulation of it. This, for once, 
is a question which seems to admit of being answered with 
tolerable certainty. Beginning with the days of Eubulides, 
there raged a fierce and bitter war between Aristotle and 
the Megarians. We know, in particular, how the former 
attacked the use made by Aristotle of the concept of 
possibility. This quarrel will best be treated later on in 
connection with the Aristotelian philosophy itself. For the 
present we content ourselves with the remark that Aristotle 
places potential existence by the side of actual existence 
on an almost equal footing, and employs it not merely as 
an aid to thought or expression, but as affording a real 
ground of explanation, in much the same manner as many 
physicists of to-day use their " forces," or the older schools 
of psychology their "powers of the soul." On the other 
hand, the Megarians, impelled by the same instinct which 
had led both them and Antisthenes to protest against the 
hypostatizing of abstractions, attacked this Aristotelian 
concept also, and endeavoured to show that the notion of 
possibility has no independent value, but only serves to 


express our expectations of future reality. Out of this 
controversy which, in the judgment of Hermann Bonitz, 
one of the most careful of Aristotelian students, by no 
means issued in a victory for Aristotle it is very probable 
that this argument of Diodorus arose. For the rest there 
was sense and wisdom even in the whims and fancies of 
this eminent man. To his five daughters, all of whom he 
educated as dialecticians, he gave strange names, among 
them, it would appear, one otherwise borne only by men. 
He even used particles, such as Indeed and But, as names 
for his slaves, evidently by way of giving a drastic example 
of the lordly freedom with which it becomes man to 
demean himself towards language, of which he should be 
the master, not the servant. The same may be said of his 
assertion that it is the business of a word always to mean 
nothing more or less than what the utterer of it wishes it 


to mean. It is clear that he takes up a definite position as 
champion of the " conventional theory ' of language (cf. 
Vol. I. p. 394), and on the basis of this theory sets himself 
to choke the most prolific source of dialectical and meta- 
physical errors. 

10. Following the line of philosophical tradition, we 
have included Diodorus among the Megarians. But, in 
point of fact, he was born at lasos in distant Caria ; and it 
was only as being indirectly the pupil of Eubulides, who 
had himself migrated to Megara from Miletus, that he was 
connected with that school. We cannot tell whether his 
labours as teacher, from which, among others, Zeno, the 
founder of the Stoa, drew profit, were carried on at Athens 
or at Megara. The history of philosophy sometimes follows 
the example of astronomy, which, for the sake of a more 
convenient grouping, unites widely distant stars, not with- 
out some violence, into a single constellation. The seed 
which Socrates had scattered had sprung up gradually 
in many parts of Greece, even in regions hitherto left 
untouched by the speculative movement ; and in more 
than one place there were close affinities between the 
Socratic and the Zenonian dialectic. To these must be 
added the powerful influence of the Cynic tendency ; thus 


the division by schools and sects within the main pale of 
Socratism is not a matter free from all artificiality. For 
example, Stilpo was trained by a Corinthian dialectician 
named Thrasymachus, who for his part was a pupil's pupil 
of Euclides ; yet he was also reckoned among the disciples 
of Diogenes the Cynic. Megara was his home and the 
scene of his labours ; but it must not be forgotten that he was 
not a pupil of Megarians only. Again, Alexinus both was 
born and died at Elis. While other dialecticians, such as 
Clinomachus of Thurii, were only outwardly connected 
with the Megarians by but slender ties, there was a strong 
bond of affinity between the Megarian and the Elian-Eretrian 
schools. We are here met by the figure of Phaedo, a name 
dear to all admirers of the art of Plato. He was a man of 
noble birth and of great personal beauty, more memorable for 
his romantic career than his intellectual significance. Torn 
from his home at Elis as a prisoner of war, he became a 
slave at Athens, and there was dragged down to such a depth 
of degradation as the youths of the modern world seldom 
know. He was redeemed from slavery by Socrates and his 
friends, became a favourite disciple of the Athenian sage, and, 
after the death of the latter, worked as teacher and author 
in his native city. Of his dialogues we possess the sorriest 
remnants, only a few words and sentences which practically 
teach us nothing. We have already mentioned (p. 48) 
his dialogue "Zopyrus." "Simon," another of his dialogues, 
took its title from the name of a shoemaker, whose shop 
Socrates frequented or was supposed to have frequented. 
On the contents of this work we have only scanty informa- 
tion, but it has been inferred, not without some probability, 
that it contained an application of the Socratic ethics 
to simple middle-class conditions, in opposition to all 
that Phaedo considered as one-sided over-tension, or as 

With this Elian branch the ancients joined, by a some- 
what external connexion, the Eretrian, because the chief 
representative of the latter, Menedemus of Eretria in 
Eubcea, counted the obscure successors of Phaedo among 
his teachers, in addition to other Socratics, particularly 


the great Stilpo of Megara. In the case of the teacher we 
have already noted the disproportion between his reputation 
and our knowledge of what that reputation was founded 
upon. The contrast is still more glaring in the case of 
the pupil, and it is heightened by the following circum- 
stance : One of his fellow-Eubceans was Antigonus of 
Carystus, whose hand wielded alternately the chisel of the 
sculptor and the style of the historian. He wrote memoir- 
like biographies of contemporary philosophers, showing that 
taste for detail of the genre order which marked both 
the literary and the artistic productions of the Hellenistic 
age. He was without doubt personally acquainted with 
Menedemus ; probably he was among his disciples ; and 
through his agency we possess the exactest information 
on the personality and the career of the Eretrian philosopher. 
The latter was descended from a noble family, but his 
father was a master-builder of no very great means. He 
was of middle stature, of powerful, sinewy build, and 
bronzed by the sun. He was the foe of all pedantry, and 
even in the management of his school he displayed a 
certain free-and-easy manner. Each of his numerous 
pupils sat or stood, as pleased him best ; the seats were 
not arranged in a circle, as elsewhere. Between him and 
Asclepiades, the friend of his youth, there was a bond of 
life lived completely in common which was not disturbed 
even by the marriage of Menedemus with a widow, and of 
his friend with her daughter. He was a lover of poetry. 
Among his favourite poets were Homer and ^schylus ; 
in satyric drama he assigned the first place to his fellow- 
countryman Achseus. Among contemporaries, the didactic 
poet Aratus, who, like himself, was intimate with the 
Macedonian kingf Antigonus Gonatas, and Lycophron of 
Chalcis in Eubcea, were on familiar terms with him. 
We possess a description, written by the last-named poet, 
of those Symposia which the hospitable philosopher loved 
to arrange. The participants, including the pupils who 
would appear at dessert, regaled themselves with con- 
versation richly seasoned with wit, in addition to moderate 
refreshments of wine and food, till the cock-crow warned 


them that it was time to break up. He possessed great 
acuteness and readiness of mind ; in his disposition strict- 
ness was united with gentleness. The first of these 
qualities was displayed by him in dealing with the son 
of his familiar friend, whom he excluded from his school 
and refused to salute, until he had recalled him to the 
right path from certain errors of which the nature is not 
known to us. Even in regard to his scientific opponents, 
he showed himself courteous and kind. For example, 
when the wife of his adversary, Alexinus, was on a pilgrim- 
age to Delphi, he provided her with an escort to protect 
her from highwaymen. For, to use modern terms, the 
professor had become president of the small independent 
state. As ruler, too, he distinguished himself by circum- 
spection and energy. At a time when the states of Greece, 
Athens among them, were outbidding each other in self- 
humiliation before the Diadochi, he earned fame by a 
behaviour which was as far removed from undignified 
flattery as it was from insolent defiance. Perfectly in 
accordance with this reputation of his are a few lines 
written by him which are still extant, and which form 
the opening sentences of a letter to Antigonus Gonatas, 
congratulating him on his victory over the Celts at Lysi- 
machea (278 B.C.). Soon afterwards his political opponents 
succeeded in procuring his banishment, and he died, aged 
74, at the court of that prince in Macedonia. 

Of all his philosophical contemporaries, Stilpo was the 
one whom he honoured most highly for his elevated strain 
of thought. In his teaching, which was only imparted 
orally, he came very near Socrates. He laid strong 
emphasis on the oneness of virtue and its essential identity 
with wisdom. In religion he was as liberal as Stilpo ; but 
the polemics of the scoffers, who appeared to him to be 
engaged in "slaying the slain," were little to his taste. 
His logical innovations, as well as the cognate propositions 
of Diodorus, must be left for treatment later on. Another 
feature connecting him with Diodorus and Stilpo is what 
we may call a strengthened feeling of reality a feeling on 
which the giant strides of natural science were assuredly 


not without some influence. Among the contemporaries 
of our philosopher were to be reckoned investigators 
like Herophilus, the founder of the empirical school in 
medicine ; Euclid, one of the masters of geometry and 
optics ; and Aristarchus of Samos, the Copernicus of the 
ancient world (cf. Vol. I. p. 121). In the forties and fifties 
of the nineteenth century the powerful development of 
thought on the lines of natural science displaced, almost 
without a struggle, the a priori systems of Schelling and 
Hegel ; if we are not mistaken, something very like this 
took place in the first quarter of the third century before 
Christ. As our exposition proceeds, the analogy will 
appear with greater and greater clearness. For the present, 
our survey does not extend beyond a small portion of that 
great picture. The campaign inaugurated by the sound 
judgment and sturdy common sense of the Cynics against 
hypostatized abstractions achieved great and growing 
success. In Diodorus and Stilpo a close observation will 
detect the same tendencies. But in the case of the 
Eretrians, by which term Menedemus is more especially 
meant, we are expressly told that they " denied the sub- 
stantial existence of generic qualities, and only recognized 
their presence in concrete individual things." In the 
contemplation of these men, however, that which attracts 
and pleases us most is the interval of peace in the bitter 
feud between philosophy and practical life, an interval of 
reconcilement with national manners and morals, during 
which philosophy, without raising infinite pretensions, was 
able to accomplish much sound and useful work. Mene- 
demus of Eretria, the philosopher at the head of a little 
commonwealth, who was unjustly railed at by his opponents 
as being a Cynic, but was in reality full of warm-hearted 
love for his country, is a figure on which the eye of the 
historian gladly rests, as on a sun-illumined peaceful island 
in the midst of a troubled sea. 




I. THE torch which Socrates had kindled cast its rays not 
only over Eubcea or Elis : they penetrated to the furthest 
landmarks of the Greek world. Precisely at one such 
frontier point, situated on the coast of Africa, there grew up 
a branch school of Socratism, which flourished for several 
generations, and finally became extinct, only to rise again 
in the school of Epicurus, in which new form it was destined 
to divide for centuries with the Stoa the dominion over 
men's minds and hearts. 

In the modern Vilayet of Barka, lately separated from 
Tripoli, to the east of the Great Syrtis, a number of Greeks 
had early settled, and, in course of time, founded five cities, 
of which Cyrene was the oldest, and enjoyed the highest 
consideration. Ancients and moderns agree in praising the 
superb site of this city, and the richness of the surrounding 
country. Sheltered on the south, by a chain of mountains, 
from the sand and the heat of the desert ; situated 2000 
feet above sea-level, on a terrace of the uplands which 
descend, staircase fashion, towards the sea ; blessed with a 
wonderful climate, the equability of which reminds us of the 
Californian coast ; built on the " gleaming bosom " (to use 
Pindar's picturesque phrase) of two mountain-domes, round 
about a spring which issues in a mighty gush from the 
limestone, Cyrene presented in the old days, and still 
presents to the traveller who visits its ruins, "the most 
bewitching landscape that can ever meet his eye " (Heinrich 
Earth). Down over the green hills and the deep-cut 


ravines, overgrown with broom and myrtle, with laurel and 
oleander, the eye is carried smoothly onward to the blue 
sea below, over which, in days gone by, immigrants sailed 
from the island of Thera, from the Peloponnese, and from 
the Cyclades, to this royal seat, made, one might almost 
say, for the express purpose of dominating the surrounding 
country and the Berber tribes that dwell there. The skill 
of the Greeks in hydraulic engineering and in road-making 
achieved great triumphs here. By the construction of 
galleries, of cuttings, and of embankments, the succession 
of terraces which formed the natural configuration of the 
ground was converted into a number of highways, which 
wound in serpentine curves from the seashore to the heights. 
The steep walls of rock at the side of the roads are pierced 
with openings, richly decorated by the architect and the 
painter. These are the entrances to countless sepulchral 
chambers a city of the dead, without parallel on earth. 
Every watercourse was tapped before it ran dry in its 
limestone bed, and the innumerable conduits thus supplied 
were used to irrigate fields and gardens. On the mountain 
slopes were pastured flocks of sheep whose wool was 
valued at the highest price ; and in the rich grass of the 
meadows there gambolled noble horses accustomed to win 
prizes at the festival games of the motherland. 

It must be admitted that for many years the pulse of 
intellectual life beat somewhat lazily in the far-off colony. 
Unending fights with natives, who had been but partially 
won over to Greek civilization ; big wars with the great 
neighbouring power, Egypt, consumed the strength of the 
people. Again and again it became necessary to replenish 
the population by fresh drafts of immigrants. Intervals of 
rest between foreign wars were filled up by constitutional 
struggles, in which monarchy, here never for long subject 
to restraint, maintained its existence to a late period (the 
middle of the fifth century), when it had disappeared in 
nearly every other part of the Greek world. The only 
parallel to Barca and Cyrene in this respect was supplied 
by the island of Cyprus, which further resembled them in its 
peripheral position and its half-Greek population. The oldest 


form of poetry maintained its existence side by side with the 
oldest form of constitution to a later date than elsewhere. 
The Telegonia, the latest of the poems composing the so- 
called Epic Cycle, was written by Eugammon, in Cyrene, at 
a time (a little before the middle of the sixth century) when 
the epic was already out of date in Ionia and the mother- 
land, and had yielded place to the subjective forms of 
poetry. The Cyrenaic made no noteworthy contribution to 
the scientific and literary output of Greece until it had been 
united with Egypt, and had found peace under the sceptre 
of the Ptolemies. To this epoch belong some of the most 
famous of its sons the learned and refined court-poet 
Callimachus, the polymath Eratosthenes, the strongly 
critical thinker Carneades. But before that time the soil of 
Libyan Hellas had already received the seed of Socratism 
into its bosom, and had brought forth rich fruit of a kind 
all its own. 

2. The apostle of the new doctrine was Aristippus. It 
is said that this son of Cyrene met with a disciple of 
Socrates at the Olympic festival, was deeply stirred by 
what he heard from him, and induced to go to Athens and 
attach himself to the Socratic circle. Of the further course 
of his life we know little, except that he gave instruction for 
pay (for which reason Aristotle calls him a sophist), and that, 
like Plato and ^Eschines, he made a considerable stay at 
the Syracusan court. His literary activity is shrouded in 
almost impenetrable darkness. That several writings have 
been attributed to him erroneously, and others foisted upon 
him in the interests of particular doctrines, there seems to 
be no doubt. But as we find a younger contemporary of 
Aristippus, so competent a judge and so well-informed as 
Aristotle, acquainted not only with particular doctrines of 
his, but also with the arguments on which they rested, we 
cannot but suppose that they were committed to writing. 
Another contemporary, the historian Theopompus, accused 
Plato of having plagiarized from Aristippus. The charge 
was quite unfounded, but it could never have been made 
at all if the Cyrenaic had left absolutely no philosophical 
writings behind him. We, however, possess but a few lines 


of them, nor does any fragment remain of the history of 
Libya attributed to him. Lost, too, are a couple of 
dialogues, entitled " Aristippus," in which the Megarian 
Stitpo and Plato's nephew Speusippus are introduced 
discussing his doctrines. Yet we are not without some 
knowledge of his personality, a sharply outlined sketch of 
which was preserved by the ancient world. Aristippus 
possessed the mastery of a virtuoso over the art of life and 
the art of dealing with men. He joins hands with the 
Cynics in their endeavour to be equal to all vicissitudes of 
fate ; but he has less faith than they in renunciation, and 
in the necessity of seeking salvation by flight from the 
difficulties and dangers of life. The man who makes himself 
master of a horse or of a ship, so he is reported to have 
said, is not the man who declines its use, but the one who 
knows how to guide it in the right direction. A similar 
attitude seemed to him to be the right one to adopt towards 
pleasure. His well-known saying, " I possess, but am not 
possessed," is reported, rightly or wrongly, as having been 
originally uttered with reference to the celebrated hetcera 
Lais ; but its application was much wider than that. " To 
be master of things, not mastered by them," is the expres- 
sion by which Horace characterizes the life-ideal of 
Aristippus. " Every colour," to quote the same poet again, 
" every condition, every situation clothed him equally well." 
His equanimity gained him the almost unwilling praise of 
Aristotle, who relates how a somewhat self-assertive utter- 
ance of Plato once drew from him the curt, cool rejoinder, 
" How unlike our friend ! " meaning Socrates. In his dis- 
position there was a peculiar strain of sunny cheerfulness 
which kept him both from anxious care about the future, 
and from violent regrets for the past. The almost un- 
exampled combination of great capacity for enjoyment and 
great freedom from wants, his gentleness and calmness in 
face of every provocation, made a profound impression on 
his contemporaries. And though his was a peaceable 
nature, averse from all contention, and therefore from all 
participation in public life, there was yet not wanting in 
it an element of courage, which found expression, passively 


rather than actively, in contempt for wealth and indifference 
to suffering. Even Cicero places Aristippus by the side of 
Socrates, and speaks of the "great and divine excellences' 1 
by which both men compensated any offences of which they 
may have been guilty against custom and tradition. As 
late as the eighteenth century, the spirit of the age was in 
sympathy with characters of this type. Montesquieu illus- 
trates, without knowing it, the above words of self-description 
ascribed to Aristippus, in a phrase bearing reference to his 
own character: " My machine is so happily compounded 
that I am sufficiently sensitive to things to enjoy them, but 
not enough to suffer from them." And the abbes who 
frequented the salons of society ladies had no reason for 
preferring the rags of unwashed Cynics to the fashionable 
dress of the perfumed philosopher.' But with us of the 
present day that type has to some extent lost favour. 
With the children of the nineteenth century, a strong, 
fervid, if one-sided, nature counts for more than the 
calculating wisdom and the all-round culture of the artist in 
life. But at least it should not be forgotten that this man 
with the clear cool brain was exceptionally qualified to 
examine and appreciate the facts of human nature with 
dispassionate impartiality. In Plato we find the expressions, 
" men of refinement," and " men of superior refinement," 
applied to a set of philosophers whom we have every reason 
to identify with Aristippus and his followers. And it is 
quite true that subtlety in discrimination, keenness of 
analysis, strictness in the deduction of consequences, were 
pre-eminently distinctive of the school of Cyrene. 

The field of scientific interest was, for Aristippus, con- 
fined within almost as narrow bounds as for his master, 
Socrates. He was just as far removed as the latter from 
all investigations of nature, while against mathematics he is 
reported to have raised the not very far-sighted objection 
that it stood on a lower level than the handicrafts, because 
no part is played in it by " the better and the worse," that 
is, by considerations of utility and human welfare. His 
interest thus centres chiefly in ethics, or the science of the 
well-being of man ; he is completely at one with Socrates 


in this, and he is moved by kindred motives. His earnest 
endeavour after clearness and definiteness in the treatment 
of ethical questions is a feature which he may, perhaps, be 
said to have inherited from Socrates. But in Aristippus 
this tendency assumes a fundamentally different form. In 
point of method, he joins hands with Antisthenes. With 
both philosophers, dialectic and the search for definitions 
are thrust far into the background. The sure basis which 
they sought, was found, not in ideas, but in facts. At 
the same time, Aristippus avoided building upon fictitious 
empirical data, such as the Antisthenic conception of the 
primitive age. In him we find the first attempt to work 
back to the fundamental facts of human nature, its 
" Urphanomene," to use Goethe's expression. For him, 
as for his teacher, happiness (quSaifjivvta) is at once goal and 
starting-point. But for the purpose of establishing its true 
nature, he follows the path, not of conceptional determina- 
tion or definition, but of the ascertainment of facts. As the 
constituent element in tvSaipovia (a shifting-hued concept, 
varying between happiness and the highest good), he 
recognizes pleasurable sensation. For this, children and 
animals strive with an instinctive impulse, just as they seek 
to avoid pain. Here is the root-phenomenon, the at once 
incontestable and fundamental fact on which must be based, 
according to his view, every attempt to fix a code of rules 
for the conduct of human life. In order to follow the line 
of thought taken by Aristippus and his school, it is indis- 
pensable to be familiarly acquainted with the speculations 
of modern Hedonists. It is only thus that the meagre 
extracts, from which our knowledge of the Cyrenaic moral 
system is derived, become intelligible to us, only thus can 
the dead doctrines speak to us with a living voice. If the 
pursuit of pleasure is to serve as an unassailable foundation 
for the construction of rules to govern human life, it is 
necessary to observe strictly a distinction which was in- 
sisted on by Aristippus with as much zeal and as much 
consistency as afterwards by Jeremy Bentham. Pleasure, 
as such, must always and everywhere be regarded as a 
good, and the necessity, which, of course, occurs with great 


frequency, of abstaining from pleasure, must in each case 
be supported by cogent reasoning. The argument involves 
a strict separation of the pleasurable feeling from the 
circumstances which produce it, accompany it, or arise out 
of it ; and all confusion of the kind must be guarded against 
with extreme care. At the risk of the worst misunder- 
standings, both Aristippus and Bentham held with un- 
shakable firmness to the position that pleasure qua pleasure 
is always a good, no matter what the case may be with its 
causes or its consequences. From the one or from the 
other there may arise an excess of pain ; the good is then 
outweighed by the evil in the other scale, and the only 
rational mode of action is to abstain from it. In other 
cases, again, actions accompanied by painful feelings are the 
indispensable means for the gaining of pleasurable feelings 
the price, as it were, which must be paid for them, a call 
upon us which must be met without flinching if our object 
is a positive balance of pleasure. The art of life is thus 
resolved into a species of measurement or calculation, such 
as Plato describes at the close of the " Protagoras " a result 
which he represents as arising legitimately out of the funda- 
mental teachings of Socrates, but which he does not appear 
to accept with entire inward satisfaction. 

3. But before we come to the application of the doctrine, 
let us return once more to its logical justification. The 
pleasure most worth striving for was not considered by 
Aristippus, as it was afterwards by Epicurus, to consist in 
mere freedom from pain ; but he was just as far from 
assigning such pre-eminence to violent pleasures, or those 
which are bound up with the appeasement of passionate 
desire. The name of " pleasure " denoted for Aristippus, 
not, perhaps, the zero on the Epicurean scale of emotion, 
but still a fairly low reading on the positive side of it, The 
mere absence of pain and the mere absence of pleasure 
were both regarded as " middle states." 

It is by no means clear what was the precise method 
which Aristippus followed in constructing his more exact 
definition of "pleasure." We only know that he looked 
upon it as a kind of " gentle motion ' finding its way into 


consciousness, and contrasted it with the rough or tumultuous 
motion which is felt as pain. He cannot in this have been 
guided simply by observation of natural processes ; for 
children and animals, to which he was all ready to appeal, 
seek the more violent pleasures as eagerly as the gentler 
kinds, if not more so. Was it the short duration of the most 
intense pleasures, or the admixture of pain arising from 
want and passionate desire (the ordinary precursors of those 
pleasures), or was it both factors together, that decisively 
influenced his judgment and his choice ? We have every 
reason to frame some such conjecture. For nothing lay 
further from his way of thinking than the arbitrariness of 
a mere fiat of authority conceived as declaring the gentler 
pleasures to be the only admissible species, and ignoring all 
the others. Some rational ground for his preference appears 
to be alluded to in the statement, attributed to him, that 
"one pleasure is not different from other pleasures." Perhaps 
the least forced interpretation of this strange sentence is 
as follows : Aristippus (and the same may be said of 
Bentham) did not deny differences between pleasures in 
respect of intensity, duration, their purity, that is, freedom 
from admixture. What he attacked was the recognition, on 
a priori grounds, of qualitative distinctions between them, 
or distinctions in respect of their worth. So construed, the 
above sentence is nothing more than a protest against the 
claim to assign to one class of pleasures a precedence before 
others which is not supported by any process of reasoning, 
but rests entirely on so-called intuitive judgments. 

Partial or isolated pleasures, however, were regarded by 
him as being immediately worthy of pursuit, not merely as 
a means for the attainment of that " sum of pleasurable 
sensations " to which was given the name of happiness or 
well-being. The language of the ancient excerpt is here in 
almost verbal agreement with that of a modern utilitarian, 
who, on this point at least, remained a strict Hedonist : 
" The ingredients of happiness are very various, and each of 
them is desirable in itself, and not merely when considered 
as swelling an aggregate." A reply was thus provided to the 
objection which lay close at hand, and was indeed speedily 


raised, that human life offers on the whole a balance of 
pain rather than of pleasure. However inevitable this 
concession to pessimism might seem to be, it remained 
none the less desirable to seek the maximum of attainable 
pleasure, no matter whether this maximum did or did not 
exceed the sum of all the pain experienced in a lifetime. 
" Wisdom ): was declared to be a good, but not an end in 
itself ; rather was it a means towards the end just described. 
It preserved the wise man from the worst enemies of hap- 
piness from superstition, and from the passions which, 
like " the passions of love and envy, rest on empty imagina- 
tion." But the wise man could not remain exempt from all 
emotions, he could not escape sorrow and fear, because 
these had their origin in nature. Yet the wisdom based 
on such true insight was not in itself enough to guarantee 
happiness unconditionally. The wise man could not 
expect a life of perfect happiness, nor was his opposite, 
the bad man, absolutely and entirely miserable. Each 
condition would only prevail " for the most part ; " in other 
words, wisdom and its opposite possessed a tendency to 
bring happiness and misery respectively. And even to 
create the tendency note the correction of Socratic one- 
sidedness wisdom alone was not sufficient ; training, the 
education of the body not least of all, was indispensable 
for this purpose. Similarly, to some extent consequently, 
the virtues were not an exclusive privilege of the wise. Some 
of them might be found in the unwise as well. 

This spirit of moderation and circumspection, this 
cautious avoidance of exclusiveness and exaggeration, 
present us with a welcome contrast to the impression 
produced by most ancient systems of ethics an impression 
which the reader has possibly already received from the 
Cynic system. But here again points of contact are not 
wanting between the two great ethical ramifications of 
Socratism. It is true that Antisthenes, in expressing his 
elevation above wants and all manner of dependence, his 
hatred towards the slavery of sensual pleasure, falls into 
the exaggeration, not to say unnaturalness, of professing 
an absolute and entire hostility to and contempt for all 


pleasure ; on the other hand, there is attributed to him a 
saying that pleasure is a good, but " only that pleasure 
which is followed by no repentance." To this Aristippus 
might very well have assented ; only he would have 
formulated the proposition somewhat more precisely by 
asserting that pleasure is a good even in the excepted 
case, though it is then equalled or outweighed by the evil 
of repentance. 

This hedonistic system, of which we have before us a 
somewhat meagre sketch, but one clearly describing many 
of its main features, has been hitherto treated by us as if 
it had been entirely the work of Aristippus. This, however, 
is more than we are able to affirm with absolute certainty. 
The elaborate discussion of first principles, clearly dis- 
cernible even in the epitome, the unmistakable traces of a 
defensive attitude towards criticism, the cautious limitations, 
rare in pioneers, with which so many propositions are put 
forth, all this suggests that there are other possibilities. 
Perhaps that excerpt may not have related to the founder 
of the school, but to his successors. Aristippus bequeathed 
his system to his daughter Arete, who again brought up her 
son to be a philosopher. We may pause here to note that 
this is the one instance in the whole history of philosophy 
in which the thread of tradition passed through the hand of 
a woman a circumstance which may, perhaps, have contri- 
buted something to the fineness of the resulting product. 
Now, this " mother's pupil," Aristippus the younger, we find 
mentioned as the author of one of the propositions of the 
Cyrenaic ethics ; and it would appear at least not impossible 
that the elaboration of the system may have been the work 
of Arete and her son. There is a piece of external evidence 
which favours this assumption, without, however, raising it 
to the rank of a certainty. In speaking of hedonistic ethics, 
Aristotle names, not Aristippus, but Eudoxus, who, in 
addition to rendering considerable services to mathematics 
and astronomy, constructed an ethical system closely akin 
to that of the Cyrenaics and based on the same fundamental 
phenomena. This ignoring of Aristippus will be easier to 
understand if we suppose that he left behind him, not a 


completed system, but merely the suggestions of one. 
The argument, however, is inconclusive, for the Cyrenaic 
theory of knowledge, which Plato almost certainly has in 
his mind, and combats, in the " Theaetetus," is also not 
deemed worthy of mention by Aristotle. It is not alto- 
gether beyond the bounds of possibility that personal 
dislike and a contempt for the " sophist >: Aristippus may 
have been responsible for the silence of the Stagirite in 
both cases alike. 

But, whether this conjecture be well founded or no, we 
must in any case use our utmost endeavour to keep the 
Cyrenaic doctrine of pleasure separate from the personal 
idiosyncrasies and the easy-going temperament which 
distinguished the founder of the school. How necessary 
it is to keep the two apart, appears with special clearness 
from the parallel case, already mentioned, of Eudoxus, who, 
equally with Aristippus, based his ethics on the pursuit of 
pleasure, but who in his own life, as Aristotle tells us, 
remained exceptionally aloof from all pleasure-seeking, and 
won many adherents to his doctrine through the respect 
which was paid him on this very account. We may also 
call to mind Jeremy Bentham, and his long life of cheerful 
labour, exclusively devoted to the furtherance of the general 
welfare. Lastly, we shall presently learn, from the history 
of the Cyrenaic school, that the view of life held by 
its members underwent manifold changes, that the two 
questions, "Is happiness attainable?" and "What does hap- 
piness consist in ? " received widely different answers, while 
the basis of the doctrine remained unaltered in all essential 
points. The peculiar nature of this basis, its deduction of 
moral precepts from the well-being of the agent himself, is 
something common to all the ethical systems of antiquity ; 
they all rest on a eudaemonistic, or, if the term is preferred, 
on an egoistic foundation. But whether the end and object 
of life is named tvSaijuovia, or whether this somewhat 
vague composite notion is analyzed into its elements, the 
individual sensations of a pleasurable kind which together 
make up happiness, the principle is unaffected. Two 
questions, however, are of great importance, " What is the 


practical content " of this or any other ethical system ? and 
" How are the rules of conduct recognized by this system 
theoretically deduced from the fundamental principles ? ' : 

4. On the content of the Cyrenaic moral system there 
is a great dearth of accurate and detailed information ; this 
very deficiency, however, supplemented as it is by one or 
two positive statements of fact, seems to indicate that the 
ideal of life cherished by these Socratics was not too widely 
divergent from the traditional one. Aristippus himself is 
reported to have said, in reply to an inquiry as to what 
philosophy was good for, " Chiefly to enable the philosopher, 
supposing all laws were abolished, to go on living as before." 
The historical value of such apophthegms is certainly 
trifling enough ; still, a saying like the above, though we 
find it quoted with the primary object of showing the wise 
man's superiority to the compulsion of law, would hardly 
have been put in the mouth of the leading Cyrenaic if his 
doctrine had differed so much from accepted standards as 
did, for example, the system of the Cynics. This impression 
is strengthened by the fact that we nowhere meet with any 
hint of a breach with social tradition on the part of the 
Cyrenaics, and that even those members of the school who, 
like Theodorus, gave deep offence by their religious heresies, 
were on the best of understandings with the rulers of the 
day ; whence we may gather that they did not offend 
against tradition by their mode of life as well. 

That by "pleasure" the Cyrenaics did not mean the 
pleasures of sense exclusively, it is hardly necessary to state. 
They pointed out, among other things, that the same im- 
pressions received by the eye or ear produce different 
emotional effects according to the verdict passed on them 
by the intelligence : thus the cries of pain which distress us 
when they proceed from real sufferers affect us pleasurably 
when they occur in the artistic presentation of a tragedy on 
the stage. It is true that the school, or, more correctly, a 
part of it, assigned the greatest intensity to bodily feelings, 
in support of which view they appealed to the preponderating 
use of corporal punishment in education and in the adminis- 
tration of the criminal law. At this point we may consider 


the process of development through which the ethical 
doctrines of the Cyrenaics passed a development marked 
by the same twofold tendency towards refinement and 
towards pessimism which characterized the whole culture 
of the age (cf. p. 148). Four generations after Aristippus 
came Hegesias, who earned the appellation ntiaiOavuToz, 
" The Advocate of Death." In a work entitled " The 
Suicide," more correctly, " The Suicide by Starvation," as 
also in his lectures, he depicted the ills of life in so moving 
a fashion that the authorities of Alexandria felt themselves 
obliged to prohibit him from lecturing, in order to avert the 
danger arising from a propaganda of suicide. After this, 
we are not surprised to learn that he held happiness to 
be unattainable, and enjoined upon the wise man the task 
of avoiding evils rather than that of choosing goods. More 
astonishing, to those at least who have not learnt to see 
the deeper inward connexions between the different 
ramifications of Socratism, is the recurrence, among the 
Cyrenaics, of the Cynic doctrine of d^icKpopia. This in- 
difference to all externals was justified by Hegesias, not 
in the same way as by the Cynics, but on the ground that 
nothing is in its own nature pleasurable or painful, that it 
is the newness or the rarity of a thing, on the one hand, 
or the fact of satiety with it, on the other, from which the 
pleasure or the pain arises. Such was his argument an 
exaggerated expression of a correct perception that habit 
both increases the power of endurance and blunts the edge 
of feeling. In the Socratic doctrine of the involuntariness 
of all evil-doing, we may see the germ of that indulgence 
towards the erring which Hegesias inculcated with so great 
emphasis. Not to hate, but to instruct, was the burden of 
his exhortation, by which we are reminded of certain modern 
thinkers, such as Spinoza and Helvetius, who set out from 
the same premisses. 

Among the contemporaries of Hegesias was Anniceris, 
in whose hands the Cyrenaic ethics attained its highest 
degree of refinement. Consonantly with the general 
character of the age, he was hardly more confident than 
Hegesias in the anticipation of positive happiness. But he 


pronounced the wise man happy, even where the amount 
of pleasure falling to his personal share was very incon- 
siderable. He appears to have taught that the portion 
allotted to the individual was supplemented by those 
sympathetic emotions which are comprised under the names 
of friendship and gratitude, of piety and patriotism. It is 
true that even he rejected as psychologically inadmissible 
the formula which states that "the happiness of a friend 
is to be chosen for its own sake," just as in a later day 
Helvetius saw a psychological absurdity in the formula, 
" The good for the sake of the good." The happiness of 
others, to Anniceris' thinking, could never be an immediate 
object of feeling. But he did not, like most Hedonists, 
look for the origin of altruistic emotions, considered as 
secondary products, exclusively in utility. Friendship did 
not, for him, rest solely on benefits received ; good will 
alone, apart from any active manifestation of it, was a quite 
sufficient basis. Above all, he did full justice to the highly 
important psychological truth that altruistic feelings, how- 
ever generated, gradually acquire an independent force of 
their own, which they preserve even when an exceptional 
case, he seems to have thought they yield no balance of 
pleasure. He not only recognized this phenomenon as a 
fact, but he also justified the self-sacrifice which is its 
corollary, by affirming that the wise man, though holding 
firmly to pleasure as the supreme end, and setting his face 
against all diminution of it, will yet submit to such diminu- 
tion in his own case for love of a friend. He extended 
the same recognition and approval to patriotic self-sacrifice ; 
in neither case are we informed what were the arguments 
by which he defended his attitude. 

We thus come to the highly important question of 
the bridge, which, in the Cyrenaic moral system, taken in 
the widest sense, led from the pursuit of happiness by the 
individual to the recognition of social obligations and the 
value of altruistic sentiment. That the system in question, 
in all its shades and varieties, did seek, and claim to have 
found, such a connecting link, there can be no manner of 
doubt. Although they detected a more than common 


element of convention in current judgments on what is 
just and what unjust, what excellent and what reprehensible, 
although they expressly declared that right and wrong exist 
by custom and enactment, not by nature a view which, 
like Hippias of Elis, they probably supported by an appeal 
to the disagreement on such matters of different ages and 
peoples still, they held it for an established truth, as we 
have documentary evidence to show, that the wise man will 
avoid all that is unjust or wrong. In the absence of trust- 
worthy and exhaustive records bearing on a particular point 
of history, analogy may be called in to help ; and we may 
here call to mind the methods followed by the promulgators 
of cognate doctrines in other ages. The first and nearest 
of such connecting bridges is contained in the doctrine of 
" well-understood interest." This species of moral calculus, 
which preaches the avoidance of evil because of the injurious 
consequences to the agent himself, and supplies a like motive 
for well-doing, is by no means foreign to the "enlightenment" 
of modern times. If we desire acquaintance with this mode 
of thought in its quintessence, we may find an exposition of 
it, marked by more than common cogency and consistency 
of formulation, in a little book written by the Frenchman 
Volney, the deistic author of "The Ruins," namely, his 
"Catechism of Good Sense." Again, the English divine 
Paley interpolates the rewards and punishments of a future 
life between "private happiness" as "our motive," and "the 
will of God " as " our rule," thus extending worldly wisdom 
so as to bring the life beyond the grave within its scope. 
We have already alluded to the concluding speech in Plato's 
" Protagoras " and later on we shall have to consider it 


more minutely. It is not improbable that Plato wrote this 
with an eye to his fellow-pupil Aristippus ; and the same 
may be said of that part of the " Phsedo " in which virtue 
is treated as the result of prudence. Considerations of a 
similar nature occupy the central position in the moral 
system of Epicurus, who, however, while generally following 
the footprints of the Cyrenaics in ethical questions, was 
prevented by the strain of enthusiasm in his nature from 
finding exclusive satisfaction in their mode of deducing 


obligations. This " regulation of egoism ' was not limited 
to a commendation of well-doing by maxims, such as the 
proverbial " Honesty is the best policy," or, " If honesty 
had not existed, it would have had to be invented." At 
this stage of thought, that which mediates between indi- 
vidual self-love and the general weal is not so much the 
hortatory ethics of prudence as the power of law, 
supplementing and controlling that of public opinion. 
Both these factors appear in this connexion in the 
Cyrenaic teaching. Regard for "legal penalties" and for 
public opinion was held by them also to be a solid 
guarantee of good conduct. In the modern world, however, 
the chief trump held by the representatives of this stage 
of thought has been legislative reform. To give the law 
such a shape that individual interest may coincide with 
public interest, was the aim which Helvetius placed before 
himself, and which Bentham strove to realize with all the 
ingenuity at his command, and all the resources of his rich 
faculty of invention. 

The second mode of connexion rests on an appreciation 
of altruistic feelings as an element in individual happiness. 
It culminates in the injunction to cultivate these feelings, to 
forget their assumed selfish origin, to choose and persevere 
in a life of entire devotion to the welfare of one's fellow- 
creatures as a means towards one's own happiness. As a 
typical expression of this view, we may quote the dictum of 
d'Alembert, " Enlightened self-love is the principle from 
which springs all self-sacrifice," or Holbach's definition 
(borrowed from Leibnitz) of virtue as the "art of making 
one's self happy by means of the happiness of others." 

There is a third stage in this search for a connecting- 
link, in which it is deemed sufficient to recognize certain 
psychological facts. There are numerous cases where habit 
and the association of ideas convert what was originally a 
means to something else into an end in itself, as when, for 
example, the avaricious man begins to seek for its own sake 
the wealth which he first desired as an instrument, or when 
the drunkard, overmastered by his acquired craving, con- 
tinues to indulge his vice after it has ceased to afford him 


any pleasure. Of this nature, it is contended, are the social 
feelings. They are rooted and grounded in selfishness ; 
they derive their force from praise and blame, from rewards 
and punishments, from regard to the good opinion and the 
good will of others, from solidarity of interests ; gradually 
they acquire such strength that they are enabled to break 
loose from their roots, and exert an entirely independent 
influence over the soul. Traces both of the second and 
the third of these attempts to bridge the gap between 
Hedonism and social ethics may be discerned in Epicurus 
as well as in his predecessors, the Cyrenalcs. To this 
category we may refer the details already reported con- 
cerning the ethical doctrine of Anniceris, as well as a 
proposition adduced in the excerpt of which we have 
made so much use, and not limited by that authority to 
one particular branch of the school : " The prosperity of our 
fatherland, equally with our own, is by itself enough to fill 
us with joy." 

5. Even the above rapid survey is enough to satisfy us 
that Hedonism, or the theory which makes the pleasure and 
pain of the agent the sole original source of human actions, 
by no means involves denying the possibility of unselfish 
conduct, still more that it harbours no design of banishing 
unselfishness from the world. Many of the most reso- 
lute champions of this doctrine have been at the same 
time warm-hearted philanthropists ; for example, Jeremy 
Bentham and other progress-enthusiasts of the eighteenth 
and nineteenth centuries. In their hands Hedonism was 
transformed into something often confused' with it, but 
fundamentally different from it Utilitarianism, or the 
system of ethics which has chosen for its guiding-star 
the general welfare, or " the greatest happiness of the 
greatest number." There are several factors common to 
ancient and modern eras of enlightenment, which have 
favoured the rise of this doctrine, and which have given it 
the same powerful impulse in the France of the eighteenth 
century as in the Greece of the fourth and third before 
Christ. The following may be taken to be the chief of 
them : a decay of the theological mode of thought in 


educated circles ; a faculty of observation enormously 
heightened by the rejection of every tendency to embellish- 
ment ; a desire to place individual and corporate life on a 
strictly rational, even specially scientific, basis, and for this 
purpose to discard all fair seemings, and set out from the 
most unassailable and the most indubitable premisses, which 
latter, partly because they possess these very qualities, are 
apt to be at the same time the least subtle and the most 
obvious of their kind. 

But our attention is due, not only to the inspiring 
principles, but also to the results of these tendencies of 
thought. Few will deny that some fragment of truth is 
present in each of them. But, taken together, do they 
contain the whole truth ? We crave permission to state 
some of the reasons for which we hesitate to answer this 
question in the affirmative. 

Hedonism, to our thinking, does not deserve the re- 
proaches commonly levelled against it. But it hardly seems 
to give an adequate account of the facts it is intended to 
explain. Like many other ancient doctrines, it suffers from 
a defect which is the reverse side of a great merit : it strains 
after a higher degree of simplicity than the facts really 
exhibit. That supposed fundamental phenomenon, which 
it and the most illustrious of its adepts Bentham place 
at the root of all human endeavour, the desire for pleasure 
and the dread of pain, does in truth lie at a very consider- 
able depth. But it is not the deepest to which the eye of 
the searcher can penetrate. Let us consider, for example, 
the human, or rather animal, craving for food. Is it true 
that man and beast desire food for the sake of the pleasure 
which accompanies the consuming it ? If we examine the 
matter closely, it will appear, we think, that the case is 
otherwise. Our desire for food is something immediate, 
arising from the instinctive impulse towards the preservation 
and the enhancement of life ; the pleasure is an accessory 
phenomenon, associated with this as with all other actions 
which promote life and its vigorous manifestation. Probably 
we shall not go far wrong if we interpret the facts somewhat 
as follows. The combination of matter which composes 


an animal organism is subject to continual dissociation, 
which would be definitive if the loss were not repaired. 
This combination possesses at the same time a tendency to 
persist a primordial fact which also appears in the reaction 
of the cell against injurious influences, and of which, as of 
some kindred facts in nature, no ulterior explanation seems 
attainable. We may mention the principle of heredity, 
which rests on the tendency of a process which has once 
begun to continue indefinitely, and the First Law of Motion, 
in which the same tendency is displayed in its most compre- 
hensive application. Now, the processes that take place 
within the organism are, in part at least, attended by 
phenomena of a psychical order, particularly by emotional 
excitement ; and it thus happens, by virtue of one of the 
least striking but perhaps most far-reaching of teleological 
adjustments, that the processes conducive to its preservation 
are felt as pleasurable, while those which are unfavourable 
are felt as painful. Pleasure and pain may thus pass for 
phenomena accompanying those primitive tendencies, but 
not for the tendencies themselves. In the above remarks, 
the germ of which is to be found in Aristotle, we have 
considered man as a part of nature, not as something 
existing by the side of nature. They will have been 
misunderstood, however, if it is supposed that man, 
endowed with reason and feeling, is to be taken as a mere 
slave and tool of his primary impulses. For by virtue of 
the images and ideas stored in his consciousness, or, 
more correctly, by virtue of the dispositions of will arising 
out of them, he is enabled to offer resistance to even 
the strongest of these impulses ; he can resolve to die, 
indeed to die of hunger. But so long as, and in so far as, 
he has entered no veto against his natural instincts, they 
produce their effects in him immediately, without reference 
to possible pleasure, even when their satisfaction has pleasure 
for a consequence. In this, as in other cases, Socratistn and 
the cognate modern schools of thought have overshot the 
mark in the rationalization of human life. It was a great 
thought, that the whole code of conduct ought to be based 
on the foundation of a single impulse. But this Monism or 


Centralism, if we may be allowed the expression, cannot 
hold its ground, we think, against the richer variety, the 
Pluralism or Federalism of nature. 

To a certain extent the case is similar with the second 
of the questions which present themselves when we set 
about criticizing the foundations of Hedonism the question 
as to the origin of the sympathetic or social feelings. At 
first sight, indeed, it would appear as though the most 
recent advances of science had provided those old doctrines 
with new and powerful support. In defending the theory 
that the selfish feelings alone are original, and that the 
altruistic feelings are strictly dependent upon them, the 
Cyrenaics and Epicurus, as also their modern successors, 
the most consistent of whom were Hartley * and the older 
Mill,t attempted to show that habit and the association 
of ideas were the sole means by which this, so to speak, 
chemical transmutation of feelings and volitional impulses 
was effected. Those thinkers to whom the above-mentioned 
means seemed insufficient to work, in the course of an 
individual life, such a change as that from the crudest 
egoism to self-sacrificing devotion, would, at the present 
day, have had at their disposal another solution of the 
problem, and one less open to criticism. We refer, of 
course, to the theories of descent and evolution which 
belong to our times. Even though we carefully avoid all 
exaggeration and misuse of these theories, particularly of 
the most important of them, the doctrine of selection, they 
still do something to explain the advance of altruism. 
They make it easier than it formerly was to believe that 
in the course of untold generations those dispositions of 
mind which favour social or corporate life, more especially 
amenability to discipline, have gained greater and greater 
strength through the development of the organs of volitional 
inhibition. But if we entrust ourselves to the guidance of 
these theories, we are carried back to a far-distant past, at 
which the question as to the original or derived character 
of the social feelings becomes impossible for us to answer, 

* Born 1704, died 1757. t Born 1775, died 1836. 


or, if construed strictly, loses its meaning. For the same 
feelings may be both original and derived original in 
man, derived in some one or other of his brutish ancestors. 
In respect of those modes of feeling which relate to the 
elementary social combinations, this possibility may at 
once be admitted to be a reality. The herd precedes the 
horde. Even in the former, the innate sympathetic feelings 
may already be observed exerting a widely extended in- 
fluence. The same may be said of all that concerns the 
preservation of the species. The case is here much the same 
as with the feelings and adjustments which relate to the 
preservation of the individual life. The " chemistry of feel- 
ings " here entirely refuses the services which it renders in 
not a few other cases, including some taken from the emo- 
tional life of animals. The dog which has learnt " from love 
to fear, from fear to love" his master, may have been educated, 
by the agency of associations connected equally with benefits 
received and with punishments suffered, up to the point of 
self-sacrifice. But we must regard in a very different light 
that instinct, which is implanted in so many animals,' of 
caring for their offspring, even when yet unborn, with a 
devotion which pain cannot quench. Take the case of the 
salmon, for example, which pines away almost to a skeleton 
in the course of the long voyage from the sea to the river 
waters suited for spawning. 

6. In the theory of knowledge, the analytic intellect of 
the Cyrenaics penetrated to still greater depths than in 
ethics. We cannot take account of their work in this field 
without making the reader to some extent a partner in our 
investigation. The regrettable loss of all the works of this 
school, the meagreness and the one-sidedness of the notices 
relating to them, almost all of which are of a polemical 
character, compel us to linger for some time over the 
subject, and to give it a detailed consideration, the length 
of which will, we hope, be rewarded by its fruits. 

The Cyrenaic theory of knowledge was compressed into 
a formula which occurs in the same form in different and 
independent accounts, and therefore must certainly have 
been taken from the original documents. It runs as 


follows : " Our modes of being affected (Greek Traflrj) are 
alone knowable." For the explanation of this proposition, 
our authorities appeal to the most diverse instances of 
sense-perception. They allege in the spirit, partly perhaps 
in the very words, of the Cyrenaics that we do not know 
that honey is sweet, that chalk is white, that fire burns, or 
that the knife-blade cuts : all that we can report is our own 
states of feeling ; we have a sensation of sweetness, we feel 
ourselves burnt or cut, and so on. The first impression 
received by the attentive reader of this book may possibly 
be that in these utterances we are again confronted by the 
Leucippic-Democritean doctrine touching the subjective 
nature of most sensations ("According to convention, 
there are a sweet and a bitter, a hot and a cold," and so 
on. Cf. Vol. I. p. 320). But this impression will not bear 
examination. For there is no repetition of what formed 
the counterpart of that declaration concerning the sub- 
jective or secondary properties of things, namely, a pro- 
clamation of atoms and the void as strictly objective 
realities. Not only so, but nothing else is introduced as a 
strictly objective existence to take the place of atoms and 
the void. We must consider, too, that our records, inade- 
quate as they are, present us, in their central features at 
any rate, with the testimony of competent and well- 
informed students of the earlier philosophers ; and these 
would not have omitted to mention the identity or approxi- 
mate identity of two doctrines. Still, the present is not an 
unsuitable occasion to allude to the theory of Leucippus, if 
only as the starting-point, and almost indispensable pre- 
miss of the theory now engaging our attention. In the 
latter we have, without any doubt, a continuation and ex- 
pansion of the earlier attempt, related to it as the theories 
of Berkeley or Hume are to those of Hobbes or Locke. 

Expositions in some detail of this theory of knowledge 
occur in three different quarters. There are two late philo- 
sophical authors, namely, the empiric physician, Sextus 
(about 200 A.D.), and a Peripatetic, or adherent of the 
Aristotelian school, named Aristocles, who came about a 
generation earlier, and of whom the ecclesiastical historian 



Eusebius has preserved considerable fragments in his 
" Praeparatio Evangelica." Lastly there is Plato. This 
reversal of the natural order in which the profound philo- 
sopher, the contemporary of Aristippus, is made to yield 
precedence to late authors who were immeasurably in- 
ferior to him in every respect, is based upon the following 
reason. Those two later authorities treat expressly and 
deliberately of Aristippus and his school ; Plato gives us, 
in a section of the " Theaetetus," what purports to be a 
secret doctrine of the sophist Protagoras, but really belongs, 
as we believe, along with Friedrich Schleiermacher and 
several others, to Aristippus. This conjecture for con- 
jecture it is, though anything but a random or reckless one 
rests entirely on the agreement between Plato's expo- 
sition and the above-mentioned accounts, which, neverthe- 
less, are thereby supplemented to a not inconsiderable 
degree, and, so to speak, illuminated from within. 

Aristocles, in truth, gives us little more than the formula 
quoted above, to which he subjoins a lengthy polemic, 
betraying his total inability to appreciate his opponent's 
standpoint. Sextus is an adherent and advocate of sceptic 
principles. As such he is at pains, as we have already 
remarked a propos of Democritus (Vol. I. p. 359), to make 
the representatives of other schools into allies of scepticism. 
It is thus not surprising that he clothes his account of the 
Cyrenaic theory of knowledge in the language of his own 
school, and that he gives the sceptical or negative side of 
that theory the predominance. But that which more par- 
ticularly moves our astonishment in this short account of 
the scepticism of the Cyrenaics, as in the parallel account 
given by Plutarch, is the lavish use of words expressing 
dogmatic assurance, such as " true," " incontrovertible," 
"unshakable," "infallible," "reliable," "sound." How is 
this contradiction to be explained ? For this purpose it 
seems necessary to penetrate more deeply into the mind 
of these philosophers and the guiding principles of their 
thought. What at first may here seem hypothetical, will, 
we hope, gradually improve its claim to be fact in the 
course of the investigation. 


The distinction between primary and secondary quali- 
ties, the great achievement, rich in consequences, of Leu- 
cippus, had drawn the attention of thinkers to the subjective 
element in sense-perception generally. This exaltation of 
the subject, this insistence on his cardinal significance for 
the genesis of sensation, natural and obvious as it seems, 
was a comparatively late development ; when, however, it 
had once appeared, its influence on the mind of inquirers 
could not but gain in strength as it became more and more 
familiar to them. The question was bound to be raised 
whether those perceptions to which absolutely objective 
validity was still conceded, were in reality fully entitled 
to the distinction. For example, the perception of colour 
was held to be subjectively conditioned, but not that of 
forms. This violent separation of what was so closely 
related could not be maintained intact when once attention 
had been drawn to a number of illusions to which the eye 
is subject even outside the field of colour-perception. 
New difficulties were raised by the staff which appears 
broken when dipped in water, by the different apparent 
magnitudes of one and the same object as viewed by the 
two eyes, by the double vision which may be the result 
either of a pathological condition or of sideward pressure 
upon one eye. The sense of touch itself, which passed for 
the type of true objectivity, was found, on closer observa- 
tion, to labour under grave deficiencies. Thus the fact that, 
when two fingers are crossed, a single pellet may be felt as 
two, supplied much matter for thought. (A few, but not 
all, of these illusions are mentioned in the account given by 
Sextus ; others are referred to in the section of Aristotle's 
Metaphysics which deals with the relativistic schools of 
thought.) Some, no doubt, were satisfied with the reflexion 
that the message of the one sense, or of the one organ, may 
be corrected by that of another, just as the normal condi- 
tion corrects the testimony of the abnormal one. But what 
guarantee have we so might the doubters answer that 
equally grave deceptions do not occur in other cases, 
where no correction is attainable ? And, apart from that, 
had not Democritus already pointed out that it is not the 


number, not the majority or minority, whether of persons 
or of conditions, that can decide between truth and false- 
hood (cf. Vol. I. p. 360) ? Here we call to mind the violent 
attacks of the Eleatics on the testimony of the senses in 
general. This tendency of thought to be hostile to sense 
was necessarily reinforced by the growth of reflexion, and 
especially by the placing of such observations as we have 
just mentioned in the forefront of discussion. Nor was 
Eleaticism by any means dead ; it lived on in the school of 
those Socratics whose home was at Megara, and whom we 
took leave to call " Neo-Eleatics," as being the heirs of 
Zeno and his predecessors. There can be no doubt that 
the old cry, " The senses are liars ; do not believe them ! 
Truth dwells outside and above the world of sense," was 
now raised more loudly than before. It woke the strongest 
echo in the mind of Plato. But the opponents of the 
Eleatics Protagoras, for example had successors as well, 
and we ask with what weapons could the old conflict be 
continued ? The proposition, " All that is perceived is 
real * had from the first a subjective tinge, which appears 
in the reference to " man " as the " measure of all things " 

o " 

but which finds its clearest expression in the treatise 
"On the Art." This sophist's discourse, filled with the 
spirit of Protagoras, contains a passage which runs as 
follows : " If the Non-Existent can be seen like the 
Existent, I do not understand how any one can call it non- 
existent, when the eyes can see it and the mind recognize 
it as existent " (cf. Vol. I. p. 454). That which in an earlier 
generation had been a casual glimpse, a fleeting inspiration, 
now became the central stronghold for the defence of the 
witness of the senses. Its champions abandon, so to speak, 
their advanced posts and outworks to the enemy, and retire 
to the inmost parts of the fortress, the sensations them- 
selves. These are no longer held as the pledges and 
guarantees of something external ; while the adversary 
receives the most sweeping concessions, his most effective 
weapon of attack is wrested from his hands. However 
freely we admit that sensation can bring no valid testimony 
to the nature, or even the existence, of 'external objects, 


the sensation itself remains undeniable ; it possesses un- 
conditional validity or truth in itself, and, in combination 
with the other processes of consciousness, makes up a sum 
of knowledge which is perfectly adequate for all human 

7. He who encounters for the first time this renunciation 
of belief in an external world may be excused if he imagines 
himself in a madhouse. " If you believe in the truth of 
this doctrine of yours " it was in such terms as these that 
Bishop Berkeley and his adherents were apostrophized 
"you may just as well run your head against a lamp-post, 
for the non-existent post cannot possibly hurt your equally 
non-existent head." To which the reply was regularly 
returned, "We do not deny the sensation of resistance, 
nor any of the other sensations of which is composed the 
image or idea of a post, of a head, and of the whole external 
world ; that which we deny, or that, at least, of which we 
know nothing " as one section of the school affirms " is 
that mysterious something assumed by you to lie behind 
those phenomena which are present to our as to every other 
similar consciousness, and which are bound together by 
unalterable laws of sequence and coexistence." What "we 
call the idea of a tree, the idea of a stone, the idea of a 
horse, the idea of a man " so we are told by a modern 
advocate of this school of thought, the older Mill, in his 
" Analysis of the Phenomena of the Human Mind " are 
the ideas of a certain number of sensations, received 
together so frequently that they coalesce as it were, and 
are spoken of under the idea of "unity." Similarly, we 
read in Plato's " The^etetus : ' " To such a group [of 
sensations] is assigned the name of man, of stone, of beast, 
and of every other thing." Plato is here dealing with 
thinkers on whose subtlety he lays particular emphasis, 
whom he places in the sharpest contrast with the materialists, 
who believe in nothing but what they can grasp in their 
hands. He says of them, further, that they resolve every- 
thing into processes and events, completely banishing the 
concept of Being. He represents them, by the aid of that 
transparent fiction of a secret doctrine of Protagoras, 


as the successors of the great sophist ; and, lastly, he 
describes for us a theory of sensation which is peculiar to 
them, one to which we shall presently have to pay some 
attention. The reader will probably be satisfied that the 
only contemporaries of Plato to whom this picture could apply 
were those who maintained that " modes of being affected 
are alone knowable," that the "external thing" supposed 
to underlie a group of such modes was " possibly existent," 
but, in any case, "inaccessible to us" (Sextus). Again, 
we must express regret for the scantiness of our informa- 
tion. We do not know how these earliest representatives 
of the school of thought now called phenomenalistic, 
settled accounts with traditional views. Did they under- 
take to explain the origin of the latter ? Did they, like 
an English psychologist and a German-Austrian physicist 
of our own day, point to the psychical processes in virtue 
of which an aggregate of possibilities of sensation " appears 
to acquire a permanent existence which our sensations 
themselves do not possess, and consequently a greater 
reality than belongs to our sensations " ? Or did they 
appeal to the fact that "the colours, sounds, odours of 
bodies are fleeting," while the " tangible," exempt in the 
main from temporal and individual change, remains as a 
"persistent kernel," appearing as the background, sub- 
stratum, or "vehicle of the fleeting qualities attached to 
it," and retained as such, by force of mental habit, even 
when " the conviction has gained ground, that sight, hearing, 
and touch are intimately related to each other ? " or lastly, 
did they contemplate the possibility that the conception of 
material substance arises from the confluence of those two 
streams of thought? These are questions which we 
cannot answer. But we should not be in the least surprised 
to learn that they never advanced beyond the rudiments 
of the problem, although they can hardly have neglected 
all criticism of the concept of Being. 

The account which Plato gives of their theory of 
sensation must also be taken as authentic only in essentials. 
Many a detail in the picture may well be due to that creative 
intellect which was hardly ever satisfied with the bare 


reproduction of other men's opinions. For this reason we 
shall only advert to the main features of that theory. 
According to it, two elements, an active and a passive, 
come into play in the production of every sensation. This 
co-operation is designated as movement, and connected, in 
jest or earnest, with the Heraclitean doctrine of perpetual 
flux. From the meeting of two such elements, which only 
by meeting acquire their characters of active and passive, 
sensation and the object of sensation take their rise 
simultaneously colours along with visual sensations, sounds 
along with auditory sensations, and so forth. It is denied 
that a previously existing hard, soft, warm, cold, or white 
thing is perceived ; all this enters upon existence simul- 
taneously with the perception. But how are we to conceive 
of this process which creates, at one and the same time, the 
subjective sensation and the objective quality, if not the 
object possessing the quality ? Plato, as we have remarked, 
terms the process movement, and clearly attributes to it a 
spatial character. What we have called the elements con- 
cerned in the movement, Plato leaves somewhat indefinite, 
and the consequence is a certain regrettable want of clear- 
ness, which may or may not have been intended. In the 
reasoning on which the doctrine is founded there is no 
mention of the material or corporeal ; the emphatically 
repeated denial of all absolute existence, the " activities, 
processess, and all the invisible," which are placed in such 
strong contrast with tangible things, lead us far away from 
the material world. Or rather, they would take us entirely 
out of it, were it not for the fact that the substitutes for 
the strict concept of matter which were used by many 
ancient thinkers, Plato and Aristotle among them, laboured 
under a remarkable degree of haziness. Thus the possi- 
bility is not entirely excluded that, in the original exposition 
at least, some species of matter, devoid of form and qualities, 
was designated as the subject of that movement. But we 
must not lose sight of yet another possibility, namely, that 
Aristippus himself may have had in view a purely material 
process. This last and more natural supposition gave rise 
to the reproach, urged against the Cyrenaics, of moving in 


a circle, by resolving the corporeal into sensations, and then 
deducing sensation from the corporeal. The justice of 
this reproach is to say the least, doubtful. For in no case 
can it be contended that the phenomenalist, merely as such, 
is debarred from studying the physiology of the senses or 
natural science in general. He will, of course, begin by 
declaring that bodies or material substances are for him 
nothing but complexes of permanent possibilities of sensa- 
tion, or else similar abstractions resting in the last resort on 
sensations. But he is none the less at liberty to treat of 
the bodily conditions of each special sensation, and of the 
material conditions of any other process he may choose to 
consider. It is possible to contest the admissibility of his 
analysis, but not the legitimacy of this application of it. 
The procedure of the Cyrenaics may quite possibly have 
resembled that which we have just described. This would 
accord with the circumstance that they were accused of 
having reintroduced into their system at a later stage the 
physics and logic which they began by banishing from it. 
For the crown of their doctrinal edifice (its fourth and fifth 
parts) is stated to have been concerned with " causes ' 
(physics), and "grounds of proof" (logic). 

8. What more especially was the character of this logic 
of theirs, is a question to which we should be glad to be 
able to give an answer. There is an entire lack of positive 
statements on the subject. Yet it might have been con- 
jectured a priori that in ancient times, as in modern, a 
phenomenalistic theory of knowledge and a hedonistic- 
utilitarian system of ethics were accompanied by an empirical 
and inductive tendency in logic. That such a logic did 
exist in the schools of the later Epicureans, we learnt, more 
than thirty years ago, from a work of Philodemus, which 
had lain concealed by the ashes of Herculaneum. When 
we first attempted the reconstruction of that mutilated 
treatise, we were able to point to traces, hitherto un- 
observed, of similar doctrines in the schools of the Sceptics 
and of the Empiric physicians. What was the common 
root ? Light has been thrown on this question by Ernst 
Laas, who drew attention to a pregnant reference to this 


subject, which had previously been overlooked, in Plato's 
"Republic." This passage dea^s with the preservation in 
the memory of past events, with the careful consideration 
of what happened first, what afterwards, what at the same 
time, and with the deduction, from such sources, of the safest 
possible forecast of the future. The language employed, 
for all its picturesqueness, strongly reminds us of the ex- 
pressions used by more recent authors well acquainted with 
the inductive logic of later antiquity. We shall hardly go 
wrong if we connect this passage, not, as was done by 
another investigator, with Protagoras, but with Plato's 
contemporary, Aristippus. The conclusion which we draw 
from all our data taken together is that Aristippus laid the 
foundations for a system of logic which should be nothing 
else than a body of rules for ascertaining the sequences and 
the coexistences of phenomena. The Cyrenaic was, no 
doubt, prepared for weighty objections against his views, 
and such were probably raised in abundance by his con- 
tentious and inquisitive opponents. " You do not believe 
in the reality of external things " so may his critics well 
have exclaimed "at least you deny that they can be 
known ; where, then, do you leave room, we do not say for 
science, but the most elementary foresight ? What is the 
foundation of the commonest empirical truths which no one 
denies, not even yourself? How can you infer to-morrow 
from to-day ? Whence do you learn that fire burns, that 
water quenches thirst, that men are mortal, that there is 
any permanence in those connexions and co-ordinations on 
which the whole conduct of life depends, as well as the 
special methods and processes of the artist, the mechanic, 
the physician, the pilot, the farmer, and the rest ? ' We 
shall not be guilty of any great recklessness in conjecture 
if we assume that the Cyrenaics felt themselves compelled 
to return some answer to these questions, and not admit, if 
only by silence, that in renouncing all cognizable objects 
they also renounced all knowledge and all regulation of 
conduct in accordance with knowledge. And the very 
answer which their epistemological assumptions allowed them 
to give is contained in that allusion of Plato to which we 


have referred. There is in that passage no mention of 
objects, but only of events and happenings ; and similarly 
it is quite possible that the inductive logic alluded to above 
may have grown out of a mode of apprehending the world 
which neither sought nor found behind things or existences 
anything else than complexes of phenomena, bound together 
by fixed laws. There is thus something more than a small 
probability that the earliest emergence of a radical criticism 
of knowledge was accompanied by the first formulation of 
that canon of knowledge which not only can be associated 
with such criticism, but has once more been so associated 
in our own century, that is to say, the rules governing 
the ascertainment of purely phenomenal successions and 

But it is time to return from this digression, to leave 
the Cyrenaic treatment of the chief problem of knowledge, 
known to us as it is only in its main features, for a subject on 
which all doubt may be said to be excluded the Cyrenaic 
doctrine of sensation, borrowed by them from Protagoras, 
but certainly further elaborated by Aristippus. That, 
properly speaking, there are no illusions of the senses, 
that, on the contrary, every sensation is the natural and 
necessary result of the factors which produce it, is a highly 
important truth which Plato, in the " Theaetetus," proclaims 
with all the clearness that can be desired, in close connexion 
with undoubted Cyrenaic doctrines. It is not the majority 
or the minority of the subjects who feel in this or that 
manner, it is not the regularly predominating or the casually 
occurring state of the individual percipient that can establish 
a fundamental distinction between sensations ; although, as 
we may add, the conclusions which we draw from the two 
classes of sensation may be of very different values for the 
ordering of life. That the authors of this theory were far in 
advance of their century is clear from the fact that some 
of the most eminent of our own contemporaries have not 
thought it superfluous to proclaim and insist upon those same 
truths. In 1867 Hermann Helmholtz wrote as follows: 

"A red-blind person sees cinnabar as black or as a dark- 
yellowish grey, and that is the proper reaction for his peculiarly 


constituted eye. He only needs to know that his eye is different 
from those of other men. In itself, the one sensation is no truer 
and no falser than the other [' My sensation is true for me,' as we 
read in the * Thesetetus '], even though those who see red have the 
great majority on their side. The red colour of cinnabar only 
exists at all in so far as there are eyes made like those of the 
majority of mankind. Cinnabar has exactly the same title to the 
property of being black, that is, to the red-blind." 

And again : " A sweet thing which is sweet for no one is 
an absurdity." In the following year another philosophical 
physicist, to whom we have already alluded, explained his 
views on the same question in these words 

" The expression, ' sense-illusion/ proves that we are not yet 
fully conscious, or at least have not yet deemed it necessary to 
incorporate the fact into our ordinary language, that the senses 
represent things neither wrongly nor correctly. All that can be truly 
said of the sense-organs is that wider different circumstances they 
produce different sensations and perceptions. . . . And it is usual 
to call the unusual effects deceptions, or illusions." 

We have still to consider a negative circumstance of 
some importance. The problems of change, of inherence, 
of predication, which played so great a part in the in- 
vestigations of the Megarians, the Cynics, and even of 
Plato, are entirely absent from all reports of the teaching 
of the Cyrenaics. Nor should we be surprised at this, for 
all these riddles are offshoots of the concept of Being, which 
the authors of the theory of sensation expounded in the 
" Thesetetus " endeavoured, as Plato expressly informs us, 
to abolish altogether. The desire to be rid of the difficulties 
which attend this concept was, we may be sure, a consider- 
able factor in the thought of the earlier as of the later 
phenomenalists. There is an entire lack of evidence to 
show how far their criticism of the concept of Being took 
a polemical turn, directed against members of other Socratic 
schools. It is possible that this very subject had its part 
in the controversies which raged between Aristippus and 
Antisthenes, and again between Theodorus, a late member 
of the African school, and Stilpo the Megarian. 


9. The discord of the Socratics was less persistent in the 
field of ethics than in that of metaphysics. We find them, 
as ethical teachers, continually reproducing the features of 
their common ancestor. We notice what may almost be 
called a reversion to an original type, a force working to 
overcome the divergences of special developments, or at 
least to bring them nearer together. It is precisely this 
fact of which we are reminded by a name we have just 
mentioned that of Theodorus. In the line of philosophical 
descent he was a great-grandchild of Aristippus, but in his 
manner of life, as well as in his teaching, he was almost as 
much a Cynic as a Cyrenaic. In early life he was driven 
from his home by party conflicts ; he worked as a teacher 
at Athens and Corinth, as a statesman in the court of 
Ptolemy I., and he was sent on a diplomatic mission to 
Lysimachus. Finally he returned to his native city, where 
he assisted the Egyptian governor Magas, by whom he was 
held "in high honour," and there he died. He was thus 
a philosopher of the world and the court, though he was 
anything but a courtier. On the contrary, the strong self- 
assurance, the frank fearlessness of his demeanour towards 
the great, was the most striking feature in his character, 
and reminded men of Diogenes and his successors. In his 
cosmopolitanism, again, and in his disparagement of state- 
citizenship, he was equally Cynic and Cyrenaic ; while the 
Cynic element predominated in his contempt for friendship, 
which, as he thought, is unnecessary to the self-sufficing 
wise man, while it is wholly foreign to the bad, whose 
inclinations rarely survive the advantages flowing from 

The judgments which Theodorus passed on the figures 
of the popular religion were at least as bold as, if not bolder 
than, those of some among his Socratic contemporaries 
(especially Stilpo and Menedemus, see p. 207). Whether 
his appellation of " Atheist ' was fully deserved or no, 
we cannot tell. The greater number of our authorities 
attribute atheistic sentiments to ~' v n ; others aver that he 
only scourged the gods of mythology ; others, again, state 
that it was from the important critical labours of Theodorus 


that Epicurus derived his own (by no means atheistic) 
teaching on religious subjects. Possibly we have here some 
reason to conjecture that Theodorus included in his attack 
the belief in Providence and in special divine interventions. 
This would certainly have been quite enough to raise the 
prospect of an accusation before the Areopagus, from which 
he was protected by Demetrius of Phalerum, who conducted 
the administration of Athens between 317-6 and 307-6. 
It was enough, too, to cause him to be ranged among the 
deniers of the Deity by the side of Diagoras and Prodicus 
(cf. Vol. I. pp. 408, 430), and to prompt a late ecclesiastical 
writer to say of him that " he denied the Deity, and tJierefore 
incited mankind to perjury, theft, and violence." 

The truth is that his ethics showed some touch of that 
more spiritual quality we have already noticed in Hegesias 
and Anniceris. For him, it is plain, the word " pleasure ' 
was too thickly beset with misleading associations to be 
used as a name for that happiness or well-being which all 
the Socratics alike regarded as the end of life. In its place 
he employed an expression drawn rather from the emotional 
than the sensual sphere " joy," or " cheerfulness," the 
opposite of which was " sorrow," or " melancholy." The 
one true good (that is, the one effective means of attaining 
that end) was wisdom or justice, which he seems to have 
regarded as essentially identical, while the opposites of 
these were the only true evil. Pleasure and pain, both 
understood in the narrower sense, as the Greek word for 
the second of them, TTOVOC, shows clearly enough, take their 
stand among the " middle ' !l things, or things indifferent in 
themselves the aSiafyopa, to use the language of the Cynics 
and Stoics. This doctrine, which we only know in outline, 
is, in any case, chargeable with lack of due regard to the 
external conditions of existence, and with the same strain 
of exaggeration which marks the two schools of thought 
just mentioned. It is not, however, easy to understand 
how the same compiler to whom we owe the above curt but 
valuable notices was able to add, almost in a breath, 
that " in certain circumstances " the wise man, as conceived 
by Theoclorus, would steal, or commit sacrilege and other 


crimes. A reporter without malice would certainly not 
have omitted to give us some more exact account of those 
remarkable " circumstances " which would have sufficed 
temporarily to dethrone the supreme good, justice. 

Unless we suppose this statement to be a clumsy in- 
vention, there seem to us to be only two possibilities. It 
may have been that in some piece of dialectic our Cyrenaic 
used names generally applied to morally reprehensible 
actions, to denote quite other and innocent ones, much as 
we speak of "justifiable homicide," or regard other acts as 
sometimes justified by necessity. We may compare the 
reasonings of Socrates on the abstraction of arms to 
prevent suicide, on various deceptions practised for the 
sake of saving life, and on similar subjects (see p. 56). Or 
it may be that he was treating of " academic instances " of 
quite exceptional character in the spirit of that imaginative 
casuistry which robs ordinary moral standards of their 
applicability casuistry such as we shall encounter in the 
case of the Stoics, e.g. the necessity of incest, if the preserva- 
tion of the human race depended on it. It is different with 
certain utterances, advocating Cynic freedom in sexual 
matters, which are ascribed to Theodorus, himself half a 
Cynic, and which may very well be authentic. 

If Theodorus was half a Cynic, his pupil Bion was 
three-quarters of one. He was born at Borysthenis, on the 
Dnieper, attended the philosophic schools of the motherland, 
and learnt not only from the Cynics, but from Theodorus, 
Crates the Academic, and Theophrastus the Peripatetic. 
He became a travelling teacher, but while he adopted the 
Cynic dress, he broke with the Cynic custom by receiving 
payment for his instruction. He was, moreover, an un- 
commonly prolific author, both in prose and verse. Wit 
and intellect he possessed in remarkably high degree, and 
the shafts of his satire flew indiscriminately in all directions. 
In two lines of burlesque verse all that remains to us of 
his poetry he tears the venerable Archytas to pieces ; and 
this, in our eyes, is more damaging to him than all the evil 
talk which went the rounds concerning him, and which 
Erwin Rohde long ago pronounced with perfect justice to 


be nothing but venomous slander. Vengeance was hereby 
taken for his violent attacks as well on the popular religion 
as on philosophers of every shade. The part which he 
played reminds us sometimes of Voltaire, whom he further 
resembles in the circumstance that a deathbed conversion 
was invented for him. Some knowledge of Bion's literary 
manner may be gained from the imitations of Teles (cf. 
p. 158), particularly from the highly ingenious dialogue be- 
tween " Poverty" and the " Circumstances of Life." As for 
the content of his teaching, it may be termed a softened 
Cynicism which has taken over from Hedonism the idea, 
foreign to itself, of adaptation to circumstances, and which 
preaches not so much the rejection of pleasure as content- 
ment with such pleasure as may be attainable in each given 

The following seems to be the net result of those 
adaptations, transformations, and fusions which we have 
described in this and the preceding chapters. The smaller 
twigs on the tree of Socratism gradually wither ; the 
Megarian and the Elian-Eretrian schools die out. Cynicism 
maintains its existence in its stricter form as a sect ; but 
whatever it possesses of the scientific spirit and method is 
transferred to a new and less crude movement that of the 
Stoa. The latter is confronted by Epicureanism, an out- 
growth of Hedonism ; but the two are inwardly in closer 
connexion than the fierceness of their brother's battle would 
lead us to conjecture. For Epicurus and Zeno are now 
nearer together than, say, Aristippus and Antisthenes had 
been. Socratism thus advances in a double stream, allying 
itself, on the Cynic side, with the Heraclitean physics, 
and, on the Cyrenaic side, with that of Democritus. So 
developed, and with these additions, the teaching of 
Socrates becomes the religion, not of the masses in general, 
but of the masses of the educated, and continues to be so 
for a series of centuries. The process of transformation 
was accomplished, as is plain, with an astonishing degree 
of regularity. In the chain, forged chiefly out of ethical 
material, there occur, in the one case as in the other, links 
of natural philosophy ; and the whole fabric constitutes 


a system capable of satisfying the religious, moral, and 
scientific needs of myriads of men. Those who performed 
the work of carrying on and extending the tradition, were 
men of eminent intellect, but yet not the most eminent of 
all. Certain substances are termed conductors of heat or 
of electricity, and in the same way minds of a certain type 
may be called conductors of thought. Such minds are to 
be distinguished from those which open up fresh paths. 
Not that we accept as true the popular theory of genius. 
No one, we think, is entirely independent of his pre- 
decessors. No one can conjure up, as if out of nothing, a 
purely novel fabric, unexampled in all its parts. The 
true distinction seems to be contained in the following 

An intellect of the first order, having found and selected 
the elements of a world-theory, will combine and develop 
them in such manner as may best accord with its own 
powerful and strongly marked individuality, and, for this 
very reason, there will be small prospect of gaining the 
adherence, within a short interval, of any very extensive 
section of society. At the same time, such an intellect, out 
of the abundance of its wealth, will exert an influence 
upon many later generations, with which it will continually 
present new points of contact, and thus upon the intellectual 
life of mankind at large. Of such a type was the great 
man we now have to study. He, too, imparted fresh life 
to Socratism by an infusion of foreign elements, notably 
Pythagoreanism, but the influence of the new product 
remained, in the first instance, limited to much narrower 
circles. The comprehensive developments, the intellectual 
phenomena on the vast scale, to which we have just referred, 
stand in immediate connexion with the Cynic and Cyrenaic 
Socratism out of which they arose. The next two books 
of this work will hardly do much towards making their 
evolution more intelligible. Still, we shall have little cause 
to repent having spent a very considerable time on Plato, 
his pupil Aristotle, and the circle of their disciples. 



Ata T}) cc7roAei</>0f)/cu rov aplcrrov (pv\aKos ; Tivos ', tf S' os 6 'A5e//iarros 
fiv 8' e'ycc, fj.ou<riKrj KeKpa^eVou, 09 fj.6vos eyyeyo/xeros (rwryp aperrfs 8ia. 
ftiov VotKe? T^ exo^rt. PLATO, " Republic," viii. 549 B. 



I. AN eminent contemporary has propounded a peculiar 
definition of a "great man." According to him, a great 
man is several men in one. There is no genius to whom 
this saying applies better than it does to Plato. Highly as 
we admire the force of his talent and the magnitude of 
his achievements, still greater astonishment is roused by 
their multiplicity. The poet in him was at least on an 
equal footing with the thinker. And in the thinker the 
most contradictory excellences balance each other. On 
the one hand, there rs the power of constructing a massive 
edifice of thought ; on the other is the piercing subtlety by 
which that edifice is again and again undermined, by which 
the products of his own, as well as of other men's thought, 
are subjected to an unwearied scrutiny, carried into the 
minutest detail. Sceptic and mystic by turns, at once a 
constructive and an analytical genius, Plato exhibited the 
many-sided wealth of his endowment not only in the long 
series of his writings : in the school which he founded, we 
see, in the course of the ages, first one then the other of 
these two tendencies coming into prominence ; they relieve 
each other alternately for almost a thousand years. 

The mighty influences, of many different kinds, that 
have radiated from this extraordinary personality, are not 
yet extinguished or attenuated by time. But lately 
Immanuel Kant has been called a Platonist by a writer 
who wished to do him honour. One half of the 
philosophic world still holds fast to Plato's view of the 


supersensual, while the other and less ambitious half con- 
templates with admiration his methods of conceptual 
analysis. Adventurous reformers, full of plans for the 
renovation of the social order, hail the "Republic" as 
an early and brilliant model of their labours ; while those 
who cling stubbornly to inherited forms of faith render 
ardent homage to the creator of the " Phaedo." The sober 
champions of utility and severe rationalism claim Plato 
for their intellectual ancestor; but the dreamy mysticism 
of East and West derives its pedigree from the same 
source. It grew from the latest branch of his school 
Neo-Platonism and traces of the relationship are still to 
be detected by the eye of the expert even in that symbolism 
which finds its material expression in the dances of ecstatic 

According to the most trustworthy accounts, Plato was 
born in the spring of the year 427 B.C., in the island of 
^Egina, situated not far from Athens, where his father, 
Ariston, had settled temporarily. His father claimed de- 
scent from Codrus, the last King of Athens. His mother, 
Perictione, also belonged to a highly esteemed family ; 
Solon, who was connected with it, had sung its praises in 
verse, as also had Anacreon and other poets. Plato, who 
only mentions himself three times in his dialogues, and 
that casually, dwells with affectionate pride on these family 
memories. And in his works he has raised more than one 
monument to several of his kinsmen : to the brothers 
Glaucon and Adeimantus ; to his half-brother Antiphon ; 
to his maternal uncle Charmides ; above all, to his mother's 
cousin Critias. Without any doubt his rich mental en- 
dowment was an inheritance from his mother's family. 
We have already, in studying the beginnings of social 
science, met with the name of Critias (Vol. I. p. 389, seq.). 
He worked several veins of literature, both prose and 
verse ; some, indeed, he may be said to have opened up 
for the first time descriptions of constitutions, of national 
customs, and (if we except the poet Semonides) of types of 
character. He grew up in the school of Enlightenment, 
and in his book-drama " Sisyphus " (cf. Vol. I. p. 389) he 


spoke of faith in the gods as an invention of prudent men, 
concerned for the welfare of society. In that work he 
adopted an attitude of hostility to all forms of theology, 
even those possessed of metaphysical refinements. This 
fact is in agreement with the little that we know of his 
materialistic psychology and his theory of knowledge 
subjects which he treated in books entitled " Aphorisms " 
and "Conversations." Posterity, however, has not pre- 
served the memory of Critias the poet or Critias the 
thinker so much as of Critias the statesman. The part he 
played in the Athenian faction-fights which marked the 
close of the fifth century, his position at the head of the 
so-called Thirty Tyrants, have made him one of the best- 
hated characters in Greek history. And there can be no 
doubt that, as champion of the aristocracy, he shrank from 
no extremity of violence ; that those were grievous political 
sins which he expiated with his life at the end of the civil 
war (403). But we have no ground whatever for supposing 
him to have been under the sway of ignoble motives. The 
very manner in which Aristotle (while spreading a veil, out 
of regard for Plato, over his political actions) couples his 
personality with that of Achilles, shows clearly that he had 
been considerably impressed by it. When we are told that 
Critias, the champion of the aristocracy, attempted, when 
an exile in Thessaly, to excite the tributary peasants against 
their masters (about 406), we may at first gather the im- 
pression that he was lacking in character. But the story is 
not fully authenticated, to begin with, and, even if it were, it 
would not be sufficient foundation for the above unfavourable 
judgment. For a man who was opposed to the system by 
which the city bourgeoisie and proletariate reigned supreme 
on the Pnyx, might very well be in favour of a free peasant 
class. Our interest, however, is confined to two points 
the fact that a man remarkable for his great abilities and 
strong passions belonged to the number of Plato's near 
relations, and the influence which, to quote Niebuhr, "so 
intellectual a man, so gifted with the power to charm and 
to subdue . . . must have exercised over his great-nephew. 
Before his banishment, his position was perfectly justifiable, 


as much so as that of any one else who ever opposed an 
administration full of abuses ; when he went into exile, 
Plato was still very young, and did not see him again till 
he returned as one of the Tyrants." However greatly the 
young Plato may have abhorred the excesses of that reign 
of terror, he doubtless considered it the product of an 
imperious necessity. His love and admiration for Critias 
continued undiminished, and, together with his grief for his 
uncle Charmides, who also fell in that struggle, may have 
contributed to estrange him from Athens and its demo- 
cratic constitution. That these sentiments persisted un- 
changed for a long course of years was a result which the 
leaders of the people, on its restoration to power, did their 
best to effect. Did not one of them, Anytus, act as the 
chief accuser of Socrates ? 

Critias and Charmides had also sought the company of 
Socrates in days gone by, and probably it was through the 
intermediary of the latter that Plato, as a youth of twenty, 
had been brought under the spell of the great conversational 
wizard. Before that he had studied music under Dracon, 
who had learnt from Damon, a man of high intellectual gifts 
and a friend of Pericles ; he had then occupied himself 
with painting and poetry. He now renounced these 
favourite tastes, or rather, he enlisted them almost entirely 
in the service of philosophy. If, as the legend goes, he 
devoted a complete tragedy to the flames at that time, it 
would seem that the poetic, descriptive, and dramatic wealth 
of his dialogues rose in full vigour from the ashes. 

Socrates, however, was not the only thinker with whom 
Plato consorted familiarly. He had already made the 
acquaintance of Cratylus, whose name he immortalized in 
one of his dialogues. This man was a belated Heraclitean, 
related to the sage of Ephesus much as the Neo-Hegelians 
are to Hegel. He grotesquely exaggerated the teaching of 
the master. The latter had given concrete expression to 
his view of the continued movement and change of all 
things in the saying that it is impossible to step into the 
same river twice. But this was not enough to satisfy 
Cratylus. For the river, according to him, becomes a new 


one during the short space of time occupied in entering it. 
Finally, as Aristotle tells us, this extreme Neo-Heraclitean 
rejected the use of language, the definiteness of which he 
conceived to be in contradiction with the indefiniteness of 
fleeting existence, and suggested pointing with the finger 
as a substitute. In some of the works of his mature age, 
Plato describes, with delightful humour, that caricature of a 
doctrine and its champions, the circle of his own teacher. 
To them the world appeared as though afflicted with a 
perpetual cold in the head, while things were as leaky 
vessels from which the water streams unperceived. But 
these men themselves might be truly called " fleeting," for 
their character had nothing in it fixed or abiding. Argument 

with them was barren, if not impossible ; they were always 
ready to produce new riddles from their quiver, and discharge 
them like arrows upon their opponent ; before the latter 
could recover from the shock of the first, he was struck by 
a second. But in spite of all this biting satire on the shift- 
ing-hued but hollow dialectic of those out-of-date philo- 
sophers, Plato's early acquaintance with Heraclitean doctrine 
did not fail to exert a permanent influence upon him. Aris- 
totle at least and his testimony on this point is decisive 
traces such an influence in the fact that the things of sense, 
by reason of their unceasing variation, were not held by 
Plato to be proper objects of knowledge. And it is quite 
true that the investigation of nature did not enter till late 
into his scientific labours, and then played a relatively un- 
important part in them. 

But we are not to think of Plato's youth as entirely 
taken up with artistic and philosophic interests. We may 
be sure that he spent some portion of his early years in the 
camp, perhaps as a cavalryman. Even in ordinary times, 
the young Athenian was required to perform garrison and 
sentry duty. Much more so at an epoch like this, when 
Athens was straining every nerve to meet the attack of 
Sparta. Universal levies of all capable of bearing arms 
were not infrequent at this time. And when the great war 
was over, neutrality was impossible in the party struggle 
which formed its tragic epilogue. Even had it been possible, 


the youthful nephew of Charmides, and great-nephew of 
Critias, would none the less have been found on the side of 
the kinsmen whom he honoured so highly, and who were at 
the same time the most influential party-leaders of the day. 

With all these facts present to our minds, we see how 
improbable it is that Plato's career of authorship should 
have begun early. This impression is strengthened by 
considerations of another kind. From the beginning Plato 
wrote all his works in the form of dialogues, and in these, 
apart from one exception, Socrates is always introduced, 
generally as the central figure. It is, of course, not impos- 
sible that this homage the most magnificent in the whole 
history of literature was paid during the lifetime of its 
object. But it is far more intelligible if we regard it as an 
offering to the dead. A much deeper significance attaches, 
on this view, to what would otherwise be simply an expres- 
sion of esteem or a literary artifice. The image of the dead 
whom we have loved, especially if they have been taken 
from us suddenly, haunts us waking or sleeping. Thus it 
was with Plato ; the disciple could not bear to part from the 
master who had been violently torn from him. The artistic 
impulse, together with the promptings of grateful affection, 
constrained him to resume the prematurely interrupted 
converse, to give some share in it to contemporaries and 
posterity, to put his own best thoughts and feelings in the 
mouth of the departed. We may assume, then, though with 
something less than absolute certainty, that with Plato, as 
with his companions, the writing of Socratic dialogues did 
not precede, but followed, the death of Socrates. 

2. The spring of 399 marked an epoch in Plato's life in 
more than one way. With this date his years of study end, 
and his years of travel begin. We have no ground for 
assuming that his safety was threatened, be the story true 
or false that he ascended the tribune to speak in defence 
of his friend, but was compelled to desist by hostile cries 
from the jurors, directed, as we may suppose, more against 
his family than his person. On the other hand, it may well 
have been that he felt at first as if life in Athens had now 
been embittered for him. But what was more important 


was that with the death of that friend who had been almost 
a father to him, the strongest tie which bound him to his 
home had been broken. We may be sure that he had 
before then been seized by a longing to see the world. 
But the wish not to lose sooner than was necessary the old 
man whom* he loved, was well adapted to keep the taste for 
travel in check. Now, however, that draught of hemlock 
had removed the last obstacle. 

Plato spent some dozen years abroad. But we can 
hardly suppose that these years were not interrupted by 
longer or shorter visits to his own city. And we may be 
sure that his travels were something different from a mere 
restless hurrying to and fro. He did not aim, as Herodotus 
and Hecataeus had done, at filling his memory and his 
tablets in the shortest possible time with a motley collection 
of impressions and information. He desired to see and 
admire the wonders of nature and art the Pyramids of 
Egypt no less than the snowy cap of the Sicilian volcano. 
He wished, further, to gain knowledge of those subjects 
which were more fully studied abroad than in the Athens 
of that day. Not least of all, his object was to see the 
" men of many cities," and learn to know their " mind." 

Three stages of his travels are recorded : Egypt, Lower 
Italy, and Sicily. But before visiting these distant countries, 
he resided for a while at Megara, where the orphaned dis- 
ciples clustered round Euclides (cf. p. 173), perhaps because 
he was the oldest of their number. After this stay at 
Megara came, as we are told, his visit to the Nile valley, 
which, doubtless, consumed a considerable space of time. 
The empire of the Pharaohs was no longer in existence. 
But the Persian conquest (525 B.C.) had only touched the 
surface of the political and social order. At this very time 
about 400 there occurred an outburst of national hate. 
The foreign yoke was broken and superseded by the 
ephemeral authority of native dynasts, supported by Greek 
and Libyan lances. The primaeval civilization of that great 
people made a profound impression on Plato. In the 
" Timaeus," one of his latest works, he makes an Egyptian 
priest say to Solon : " You Greeks are boys." The continuity 


of tradition, lasting unbroken for thousands of years ; the 
immovable solidity of the priestly regulations governing all 
intellectual life ; the fixity of style, crystallized long ago, 
and now apparently unchangeable, in music and the plastic 
arts, the " hoary science ; " all this was for him an imposing 
spectacle. Still more so were the hereditary transmission 
of employments, the highly developed bureaucracy, the 
strict separation of callings and their far-advanced sub- 
division an idea of which last may be gained from the very 
modern-sounding description given by Herodotus of medical 
specialists. (" Some are oculists . . . others dentists ; 
others, again, treat internal diseases.") The division of 
labour, in sharp contrast to Athenian many-sidedness and 
versatility, was a corner-stone of his social and political 
thought ; no doubt the observation of Egyptian institutions 
was here in close alliance with the demands which resulted 
from the Socratic primacy of the intellect. The compulsory 
education prevalent in Egypt seemed to him worthy of 
imitation, as did also their concrete methods of arithmetical 
instruction, based on profound pedagogic insight, in which 
garlands, fruits, drinking-cups, were passed from hand to 
hand amid the "jests and merriment' of the children. 
And he praises with great fervour the custom, fixed for 
ages by an unchanging legislation, of familiarizing the 
young with beautiful music and beautiful gestures. 

Plato made a stay of considerable length at Heliopolis, 
the original seat of Egyptian religion and priestly wisdom, 
where, at about the commencement of our era, the geographer 
Strabo was shown the apartments formerly occupied by the 
Athenian philosopher. Situated on an artificial eminence 
some five miles to the north-west of the ancient Memphis 
and modern Cairo, the Temple of the Sun, together with 
the buildings which housed its great army of priests, may 
be regarded as a peaceful University town, presenting a 
sharp contrast to the noise and bustle of the neighbouring 
metropolis. In this neighbourhood, which is not very 
attractive now, but which in those days was diversified by 
the great ship-canal and the lakes fed from it, we may 
imagine Plato walking for his pleasure, perhaps in the 


long-vanished Avenue of the Sphinx. His mind may 
well have been filled with reverent awe by the great age 
of the magnificent temple-grounds, of whose former glories 
the only remaining witness is an obelisk of rose-granite, 
towering to a height of more than sixty feet, now the 
centre of a swaying mass of vegetation, but in ancient 
days one of two ornaments placed on both sides of the 
main entrance. From the inscription, which is legible to 
this day, Plato might learn, if he had a linguist for his 
guide, that the monument had been raised, more than 
fifteen centuries before his own birth, by King Usirtasen I. 
Plato's friend, the philosopher and astronomer Eudoxus, 
also visited Heliopolis, not long afterwards, and spent 
sixteen months there, devoting himself to observations of 
the stars ; a few decades earlier, Democritus had measured 
his strength against that of the Egyptian mathematicians 
(cf. Vol. I. p. 318). From these facts we may draw two 
inferences. There can have been no insuperable linguistic 
difficulty in the exchange of thought, whether we suppose 
that communication between the Greek investigators and the 
Egyptian scholars was established by means of interpreters, 
or whether there were already among the priests some 
who, like the arch-priest Manetho a century later, possessed 
an adequate knowledge of Greek. We may conjecture, too, 
that the Hellenes still had something to learn from the 
astronomical observations, reaching back for centuries, of 
the Egyptians ; while it is doubtful whether the creators of 
mathematics were any longer in advance of their gifted 
pupils. Whichever of these two studies it was that Plato 
followed Cicero says both (astronomy and arithmetic) 
he shows himself very well informed on Egyptian matters. 
Even where he exhibits Egyptian ideas in the playful guise 
of myth, there is nothing arbitrary in his manipulation of 
them. He preserves the peculiar form of the names of 
divinities, which he does not, like Herodotus, replace by 
corresponding names from the Hellenic pantheon, even to 
the point of violating the laws of Greek phonetics. Thus 
he speaks of Theuth ; he knows that the ibis bird is sacred 
to him, and he calls him the inventor of writing, of astronomy, 


of surveying, and of arithmetic ; thus completely agreeing 
with the hieroglyphics, which name the god Dhuti the Lord 
of Writing, the first writer of books, the calculator of the 
heavens, the overseer of the survey, and so on. There is a 
long and somewhat ambiguous passage in Plato's " States- 
man," in which we may perhaps see evidence of the pains 
taken by his friends among the priests to give him an exalted 
opinion, yet one not too crudely at variance with fact, of the 
importance of their order. And in reality their power was 
increasing at that period, while the reputation of the warrior 
caste, after a series of defeats in the field, was sinking lower 
and lower. The church, indeed, was the only guardian of 
the national culture and traditions. She possessed the 
key to the heart of the people. For that reason she was 
flattered and courted, both by the foreign autocrats, by 
the Persians, as by the Ethiopians before them and the 
Macedonians after them, and by those native pretenders 
to the throne who, when not engaged in resisting alien 
conquerors, were continually quarrelling among themselves. 
A short sea- voyage brings the traveller from the mouths 
of the Nile to the shore of Cyrene. Here, too, Plato made 
some stay, and was much in the company of Theodorus, 
fin eminent mathematician, who had been trained in 
astronomy and music, and who had early turned aside 
from " pure speculation ' to the special sciences. Later 
authors include him in the circle of the Pythagoreans. 
Plato, however, who introduces him into three of his 
dialogues as an interlocutor, terms him repeatedly and 
emphatically a friend of Protagoras. This friendship must 
have been matter of general knowledge ; otherwise Plato, 
who desires to do honour to Theodorus, his former teacher, 
but is a little out of sympathy with Protagoras, would 
hardly have mentioned it. In passing, there is one inference, 
at least, which we may draw with certainty. The procedure 
of Protagoras in discussing the foundations of mathe- 
matics, and (according to our view; see Vol. I. p. 455) in 
maintaining their origin in experience, cannot have been 
regarded by the representatives of that science as an act of 


The next goal of his wanderings was Lower Italy, 
whither he was probably urged by the same desire of com- 
pleting his mathematical education. For this was the land 
of the Pythagoreans. The brotherhood, dispersed a century 
earlier, had probably left more numerous traces in Tarentum 
than in any other city. Witness not only the many mem- 
bers of that school whose home was Tarentum, men of 
whom, it must be admitted, we know little more than their 
names ; the Attic comedy comprised several works entitled 
"The Tarentines," which made Pythagorean peculiarities 
the target of their ridicule. Certainly the Pythagorean 
adept, with his serious mode of life, his not infrequently 
morose character, and his occasional leaning towards ascetic 
self-torture, stood out in sufficiently sharp contrast with the 
luxury of that wealthy city. According to Plato's own 
testimony, Tarentum at Carnival-time (so we may render 
" the Feast of Dionysus " ) was like nothing so much as a 
drunken man. Social conditions were exceptionally stable 
in this town, which was situated between the Tarentine 
gulf with its excellent harbour, and the mare piccolo with 
its incomparable wealth of edible shell-fish. Class-contrasts 
were softened, for Nature poured out her gifts with lavish 
hands, and at the same time the rich endeavoured, intelli- 
gently and successfully, to relieve the privations of their 
less-propertied fellow-citizens. The form of government 
was a moderate democracy, and at the head of the State 
there stood for a succession of years the very man for whose 
sake Plato took up his residence in Tarentum, and with 
whom he was connected by a friendship celebrated through- 
out antiquity. This man was Archytas, a name which our 
story cannot pass over in silence. 

3. Of all the Greeks known to us as having been 
characterized by an harmonious combination of many-sided 
talents, Archytas was perhaps the most eminent. Of con- 
siderable importance as a statesman and commander, a 
profound thinker, a distinguished investigator, to some 
extent a pioneer, in several departments of knowledge, he 
was at the same time a lover of cheerful society, an excellent 
flute-player, and a kind master to his slaves, with whose 


children he did not disdain to play, even inventing a new 
toy for them, the rattle. He was as far as Pericles was 
from practising any of the arts of the demagogue (cf. p. 43), 
and it is not a little to the credit of his fellow-citizens that 
they allowed their "foremost man" to work for them, to 
guide their fortunes and therewith those of the confederacy 
of South Italian cities to which they belonged. Archytas 
was seven times elected Strategus, he was successful in 
war with the neighbouring Messapians and Lucanians, 
and he maintained the dignity of his country, even when 
confronted by the then all-powerful Syracuse. He lived a 
full life of varied activity, and his good fortune followed him 
to the end, for he perished in a storm at sea and was spared 
the infirmities of old age. 

In his intellectual work, the first place is taken by 
his contributions to mathematical and physical science. 
Mechanics, as a branch of mathematical physics, was 
actually founded by him. He was also the inventor of the 
first automaton known to us a wooden pigeon balanced 
by a weight hanging from a pulley, and caused to fly by 
the escape of compressed air from a valve. As a geometer 
he earned the praises of the greatest ancient authority, 
Eudemus. The latter names him, Leodamas of Thasus, 
and Theaetetus the Athenian as the men who " enriched the 
subject with new theorems, and arranged the parts of it in 
a more scientific sequence." He advanced the theory of 
proportion, and solved the much-discussed problem of 
the duplication of the cube. He also did good work in 
acoustics and the theory of music. The fragments of 
certain writings on logic and ethics, which have been 
attributed to him, are, in part, demonstrably spurious. But 
that his investigations were not confined to the special 
sciences seems clear from the circumstance that Aristotle, 
in a lost work comprising three books, treated " Of the 
Philosophy of Archytas." The not very numerous frag- 
ments whose genuineness is undoubted afford us but few 
glimpses of his deeper thought. There are, however, two 
utterances of his, both of them significant, and nwardly 
connected with each other, which we are unwilling to pass 


by. Influenced, possibly, by the Pythagorean harmony of 
the spheres, Archytas discusses the limited receptivity of the 
sense of hearing, and compares the organs of sense with 
vessels which, having once been filled, can hold no more. 
In the other passage he raises the question Why are the 
component parts of plants and animal bodies, so far as 
special adjustments permit, of a rounded form ? In this 
connexion he cites the trunks and branches of trees, as well 
as human arms and legs. Although his answer to the 
problem that the cause is " the proportionality of the 
similar" is not transparently clear to us, still the breadth 
of view implied in his raising the question at all, and his 
evident disdain of the comfortable teleological pillow, are 
sufficiently noteworthy. The similarity between the two 
investigations lies in the fact that neither of them recognizes 
any sharp line of division between the organic and the in- 
organic world. It is clear that Archytas had much to give. 
But assuredly the most important of the benefits which 
Plato received from him was the collective impression 
produced by his great and noble personality and the high 
station which he either then occupied or was shortly to 
attain. This impression was in harmony with one of 
Plato's ideals, which thus received a new and powerful 
impetus. For Plato found here, in casual and temporary 
union, that which it was his dearest wish a wish expressed 
with the most passionate accents of his eloquent lips to 
see permanently and universally combined : political power 
and scientific insight. His earnest endeavours, stimulated 
without doubt by this example, to procure a share in the 
same blessing for another important part of the Greek 
world, brought him again and again to the land where he 
went through the richest, and yet also the saddest, ex- 
periences of his life. There the hand of the philosopher 
did in very truth grasp the levers of history with what 
result we shall presently see. Now, the way to this land 
was pointed out to him, and opened up for him, by 
Archytas himself and his Pythagorean companions, in 
virtue of their friendly relations with the high-minded 
Syracusan prince, Dion. 


4. The highly favoured soil of Sicily early became a 
prize for contending nationalities and parties. The island 
of Demeter and Core was fertilized with blood. Both 
these wars and these party-struggles were favourable to 
the rise, the continuance, and the extension of despotic 

In the other parts of the Hellenic world there were two 
distinct phases of tyranny. The earlier of these sprang for 
the most part from the war of classes, the later from the 
use of hired troops. In Sicily the two phases were imper- 
ceptibly fused together. Indeed, the two causes we have 
named were there operative from the first. Gelo had long 
ago (480) employed mercenaries in his victorious struggle 
with the Carthaginians. The pre-Greek population of the 
island supplied suitable material in proverbial abundance, 
and repeated contests with the great neighbouring power 
in the south-west made it necessary to take full advantage 
of this resource. Moreover, the war of classes had raged 
more fiercely and persistently here than elsewhere. The 
mixture of Greek with native blood may have been to 
blame, or the hot climate, or the luxuriant fertility of the 
soil ; in any case want of moderation was the dominant 
factor in both the public and the private life of the Siceliots. 
Unbridled in desire, insatiable in pleasure, ruthless in 
revenge, these wild, passionate natures showed little incli- 
nation towards those perpetual compromises which are the 
indispensable condition for the successful working of a 
political constitution. Here the Demos expelled the rich ; 
there it schemed to plunder them, and was driven by them 
out of the city. Every such conflict offered a welcome 
handle to the usurper. Although there were instances in 
which a tyranny displaced an oligarchy, this fate was 
usually reserved for democracies. " In Italy," says Treit- 
schke, speaking of mediaeval and modern times, " democratic 
republicanism everywhere succumbed to tyranny." In 
Sicily the same natural tendency was materially assisted 
by a special circumstance. " Packed full of miscellaneous 
crowds of humanity," is the phrase by which Thucydides 
makes Alcibiades describe the cities of Sicily, the suggestion 


being- that they are thus marked out as the easy prey of a 
conqueror. The same circumstance made them a still 
easier prey for the representatives of force and absolutism. 
Moreover, that misccllaneity and that populousness were 
the result, partly of various accidental coincidences, but 
partly also of deliberate scheming. Among the causes 
which contributed to these effects, we may mention the 
expulsion of entire populations both by the national enemy, 
the Carthaginian, and by the fiercely contending rival 
factions ; the settling of mercenary troops in homes granted 
them as part of their hire ; and, lastly, the unscrupulous 
efforts of powerful rulers consciously and persistently 
directed towards the strengthening of their own authority 
by diminishing the homogeneity, and with it the capacity 
for resistance of the burgher class. Thus in Sicily the 
maxim of absolutism, " Divide et impera," was practised 
throughout the fifth and fourth centuries, with disastrous 
consequences unparalleled in the remainder of the Hellenic 

The pinnacle of perfection in Sicilian tyranny, as also 
the highest development of that island's power, are both 
associated with the name of Dionysius I. Beginning as a 
subordinate official, he crept by demagogic by-paths into 
the possession of a sceptre, which he afterwards maintained 
with stubborn energy and the most far-sighted circum- 
spection. He was not a military genius. In the course of 
his reign of thirty-eight years he suffered almost as many 
defeats as he gained victories. If, however, none of his 
defeats proved crushing ; if, time after time, he converted 
initial disaster into final triumph ; if he stemmed the flood 
of Carthaginian conquest, extended his own authority over 
the greater part of Sicily and a not inconsiderable part of 
Lower Italy ; if his influence counted for much in Epirus 
and the Greek motherland ; these results were due to his 
iron will and his inexhaustible fertility of resource. When 
his near kinsman Dion brought Plato to court, he was forty- 
three years of age, and had sat for eighteen years on the 
throne of Syracuse. As might be expected, we have next 
to no detailed information on the intercourse of the two 


men. Their early estrangement and its far-reaching after- 
effects are all that is known to us. 

In the mean time, Plato had an opportunity of viewing 
the residential city at his leisure. In those days Syracuse 
was the first city in the Hellenic world. It occupied the 
position which Athens had already lost, and Alexandria 
had not yet won. As soon as the sovereign's guest left 
the palace on the " Island of Quails " (Ortygia) an island 
which once had been the whole of Syracuse, and has since 
become so again there lay spread before him in the wide 
plain and on the encircling heights a brilliant capital, 
surging with a good-humoured, pleasure-loving crowd, all 
eyes and ears. Let us accompany him in one of his sallies. 
His way takes him to the outer ring of the city, past the 
Latomia, or disused quarries, excavations which are now 
overgrown with rank vegetation, and in which, a quarter 
of a century before Plato's visit, thousands of Athenian 
war-prisoners had come to a miserable end. Sadly his 
mind reverts to those victims of an unblest enterprise ; but 
his thoughts are bitter when he remembers the authors of 


it, champions of an imperialistic policy, which, as pupil of 
Socrates, he utterly detests. But his melancholy reflexions 
are cut suddenly short. He is caught up and carried away 
by a passing wave of humanity, which does not stop till 
it halts before the street-stage of a professional reciter. 
The latter proceeds to regale his auditory with sketches 
of Syracusan every-day life, delivered in broad Doric, with 
strongly emphasized comic effects, a lively play of gesture, 
and sharply marked changes of voice. These monologues 
and duologues, which went by the name of " mimes," and 
of which our knowledge is gained rather from imitations 
than from the few actual fragments, bore titles such as 
" The Tunny-fisher," " The Mother-in-law," " The Women 
at Breakfast," " The Seamstresses," and were distinguished 
by their powerful realism, their irresistible wit, their pithy 
aphorisms. Henceforth they were included in Plato's 
favourite reading. If he afterwards produced dialogues 
which were masterpieces of individual characterization, his 
debt was probably greater to the homely prose of the Sicilian 


mime-writer than to the tragic and comic poets of Athens. 
Not but what the muse of Sophron sometimes took higher 
flights into the realm of mythology ; one of his works was 
entitled " Prometheus," and in another Hera appeared as 
a character. This would have been impossible without the 
freest handling of the mythical material an example from 
which Plato may perhaps have learnt something. But let 
us return to Syracuse. It is a day of festival, and the 
theatre is open. The crowd streams in to the spectacle, 
and the stranger follows them. Here he makes a closer 
acquaintance with the comic poet Epicharmus, whose 
native gifts of an observant eye and a sober, well-balanced 
judgment have been supplemented in the home of his 
adoption (he was born, like Hippocrates, in the island of 
Cos) by many new elements of varied culture. He had 
met Xenophanes at the Court of Hiero, and the death 
of that prince, in 467, was soon followed by his own, at 
an advanced age. No other comic poet ever displayed 
equal skill in the combination of jest with earnest, or 
commended the philosophical tenets of his day to the ear 
and brain of his audience with such subtle drollery. 
Suppose his theme the doctrine of Heraclitus ; he was 
not content to clothe the theorem of universal flux in such 
verses as: 

" Naught is constant, naught abiding ; all things whirl in ceaseless 

The " Theorem of Becoming " must also be illustrated 
by a comic episode invented for the purpose. A tardy 
debtor justifies his delay by the remark that since contract- 
ing the debt he has become an entirely new man, and is 
therefore not bound by the old obligation. The creditor 
allows the excuse to pass, and adds a pleasant surprise in 
the shape of an invitation to dinner next day. But when 
the expectant guest arrives at the house of this most 
hospitable creditor, the latter has him turned back by his 
slaves, and declares, in answer to his angry protests, that he, 
too, has become a new man since yesterday. If Plato saw 
such scenes as these enacted, he must have been pleasantly 


reminded of his distant home and the Heraclitean ex- 
travagances of Cratylus, the teacher of his youth. There 
were other impressions, too, of a more permanent kind, that 
Plato received from Epicharmus, and of these we shall 
have to treat more minutely in the sequel. 

The day is brought to an end by a walk up the gentle 
slopes of Epipolse, whence charming prospects are to be 
had over the city quarters lying at the beholder's feet, as 
well as over the adjacent sea and country. Here Plato's 
astonishment is roused by the colossal walls and fortifica- 
tions, far in excess of the customary Greek scale ; and he 
admires the energy of his royal host, an energy which no 
obstacle can daunt. Such reflexions, however, did not 
open his heart towards Dionysius. Not but what there 
were points of contact between the two men. The tyrant 
was no pleasure-seeker. The heavily laden tables of 
Syracuse, the refinements of that art of cookery which 
had first been reduced to a system in that city, were as 
little congenial to him as to Plato. He lived soberly and 
temperately, absolutely devoted to his work on the great 
task of his life. But the objects to gain which his will- 
power was strung to its highest tension were not such as a 
disciple of Socrates could view with sympathetic approval. 
Certainly Plato never addressed to Dionysius those moral 
sermons which a tainted tradition has put in his mouth. 
He had not come to court to tell the "tyrant' 1 that he 
must of necessity be unhappy, though no doubt this was 
his conviction. But if he had thought it an unworthy thing 
to keep his conviction for the nonce locked up in his own 
bosom, he would never have accepted the invitation of a 
prince who was then a man of mature years, whose success 
was at its zenith, and whom he could never hope to convert. 
We may be sure that he acted with unfailing courtesy. 
But this did not exclude a certain inward coolness and 
shy reserve, such as Dionysius, in virtue of his peculiar 
temperament and position, was the very man to detect 
quickly and to feel keenly. 

5. Tyranny has always resembled a coin subject to 
violent fluctuations of value. That pendulum, the general 


judgment, has more than once swung from the one extreme 
of bitter hatred and contempt to the opposite extreme of 
envious and even reverential admiration. The " most 
bloodstained of all creatures," the lawless "adversary of 
all right and justice," is not seldom transformed into a 
monarch of renown, whom contemporaries and posterity 
alike praise for his glorious and beneficent deeds. Such a 
reaction, too, possesses a peculiar power of hastening its own 
progress. The more respected a government is, the more 
assured does its position become ; and the more assured its 
position, the more easily can it dispense with the less 
reputable expedients of administration. Again, Dionysius 
desired something more than merely to be feared. Like 
Napoleon, he understood the art of winning by kindness as 
well as that of terrifying by severity. He was also a poet, 
endowed with all the proverbial irritability of the class. 
But in order to achieve as much as he did in this sphere 
he was awarded a prize for tragedy at Athens, not 
long before his death it was necessary for him to study 
carefully the works of the old poets, and this took up a 
considerable part of his not too generous allowance of 
leisure. All this is hardly compatible with dulness or 
coarseness of mind. There is a line of his verse which 
runs as follows : " Despotic power, the mother of all 
wrong." The Greek word here used, rvpavvig, betrays still 
more clearly the fact that he was unable to put his own 
position away from his thoughts. Very probably the con- 
text of that line of verse contained a discussion, in an 
allusive form, of the points for or against his own character. 
Be this as it may, he had every right to claim for himself 
that he had solved, though by unconstitutional and illegal 
methods, a problem which was incapable of being solved 
constitutionally. At the time when he seized the sceptre, 
the Greek population of Sicily was in deadly peril. The 
victorious march of Carthage had begun. Selinus, Himera, 
Agrigentum, had been taken in the space of a few years ; 
the inhabitants of three cities had been massacred or driven 
into exile ; nowhere among the Greeks could be perceived 
the faintest sign of a united resistance, based on definite 


alliances. On the contrary, their quarrels among them- 
selves had served as an invitation to the national foe. 
Dionysius 'did not thrust the boundary of Carthaginian 
dominion very far back towards the West, but he definitively 
checked its otherwise inevitable advance eastwards. He 
might well imagine he possessed a title to grateful recogni- 
tion on the part of the Greeks, and think himself worthy 
to receive what Gelo and Hiero, his models in small things 
as well as great, had received before him, the consecrating 
homage of the poets, the thinkers, the great festival 
assemblies of Hellas. But all these expectations were 
grievously disappointed. At Olympia, where Hiero had 
won those brilliant victories which Pindar and Bacchylides 
had immortalized, there awaited him nothing but scorn and 
insult. The mob, hounded on by the orator Lysias against 
the " tyrant of Sicily," began to storm the tent, all draped 
in purple and gold, which was occupied by the Syracusan 
deputation under the sovereign's own brother. The poems 
of Dionysius were received with hisses. Under the stress 
of these humiliations he is said to have been nearly 
driven mad. 

For all this, it remains questionable whether the wound- 
ing of the great monarch's pride by the lack of deference 
on the part of Plato was the sole cause of the final rupture. 
It may be that Dionysius was here guided by a feeling of 
mistrust that watchful, consuming mistrust which filled 
his life with torment and made him the type of the " dark- 
browed ogre " surrounded by spies and police agents. His 
brother-in-law Dion, who was soon to be his son-in-law as 
well, was a prince of majestic presence and great natural 
gifts. In him Dionysius saw the mainstay of his dynasty. 
He could not but note with concern how the impressionable 
young man gradually surrendered to the spell of the 
stranger's forceful speech and thought. He scented disaster 
in the air, and his despot's conscience gave him licence to 
meet the coming danger with a violent remedy. When 
Plato left Syracuse in the company of the Spartan 
ambassador, Dionysius requested the latter to rid him for 
ever from all anxiety on Plato's account. Pollis fulfilled 


this commission, in what he no doubt thought the least 

objectionable way, by setting his companion ashore at 

^Egina. A fierce feud was then raging between Athens 

and its island neighbour. Every Athenian caught on 

^ginetan soil was doomed so the people had decreed 

either to death or to slavery. It was the milder penalty 

that fell to Plato's lot, perhaps because he had come against 

his will ; perhaps, too, because he had been born in the 

island. Thus his experience included the sharpest contrasts 

of fortune to-day a guest in a king's palace, to-morrow a 

slave in the market-place waiting for a lord and master. 

A little more, and that great light would have been 

extinguished in the dull prison of a menial existence. But 

fate was in league with philosophy. A wealthy Cyrenian, 

named Anniceris, who had known Plato since the latter's 

visit to Cyrene, happened to be for the moment in ^gina. 

He hastened to purchase Plato's freedom, and conveyed him 

away from the island. Some Athenian friends collected a 

sum of money two to three thousand drachmas, we are 

told and this was offered to Anniceris to repay him for 

his outlay. The offer was generously declined, and the 

money used to buy the land on which Plato's school was 

built. The whole story reads sufficiently like a novel, but 

there is no serious reason to doubt its authenticity, supported 

as it is by the testimony of good witnesses and a casual 

allusion of Aristotle. 

6. In one of the most charming passages in his works 
Plato brings before us his master, Socrates, fleeing from the 
bustle and uproar of the city in the company of a young 
friend. The two hasten to pass the gate, choose themselves 
a cool resting-place, and there, reclining on a gentle slope 
of turf under the leafy awning of a spreading plane, begin 
that exchange of thought and discourse which makes up 
the dialogue " Phsedrus." It is a cheering thought that the 
profound feeling for natural beauty which speaks to us in 
this description does not, in Plato's case, bear witness to an 
ungratified longing. When, at the age of forty, he returned 
to Athens to reside there permanently, he formed the resolu- 
tion of establishing himself as a teacher an unparalleled 


step for a scion of an illustrious family. It had been 
chiefly in the neighbourhood of the gymnasia that 
Socrates had consorted with the youths who desired instruc- 
tion. Plato followed the precedent thus set, as Antisthenes 
had perhaps already done (in the Cynosarges, see p. 170), 
and as Aristotle afterwards did (in the Lyceum). The 
three great gymnasia of Athens were thus brought into 
permanent association with philosophy. Plato chose the 
Academy, and thereby gave the name a symbolic meaning 
for all time. 

This gymnasium was situated about twenty minutes' 
walk outside the " Double Gate " that led from the 
magnificent street known as the " Dromos " (or racecourse) 
into the suburb of " Potters' Town." The road by which it 
was approached was thickly bordered with public monu- 
ments of all kinds, notably with graves of the honoured 
dead, including Pericles and the tyrannicides Harmodius 
and Aristogeiton. In its neighbourhood were many holy 
places, particularly an altar dedicated to Athene, set in a 
ring of twelve olive trees. The nature-lover Cimon, the 
same who had planted the market-place with trees, had, 
by means of artificial irrigation, transformed the hallowed 
precinct into a veritable park. Here, by the side of broad 
carefully kept paths, were stretches of thick turf, shady 
avenues, and quiet lounge-spaces under gigantic trees, 
numbered among the wonders of Athens. Here, wheYe 
(to quote Aristophanes) " the elm held whispering converse 
with the plane," Plato had perhaps once gambolled with 
other boys, " fragrant with hedge-blooms and innocence." 
He now acquired a plot of ground, near the shrines and the 
gymnasium, where, in the centre of a garden of moderate 
extent, a building stood which was to be long the centre of 
his school. Here Plato fixed his own residence, and spent 
the remainder of his life in familiar intercourse with a 
circle of intimate disciples. Here took place those frugal 
banquets which contrasted to such great advantage 
with the many courses of the generals' dinners those 
banquets seasoned with wit and intellect, which were 
imitated in all schools of philosophy, and which found a 


reflex in a special type of literature. They were held, 
sometimes in commemoration of the founder's birthday, 
sometimes in connexion with sacrifices offered to the patron 
goddesses of the institution. These were the Muses, who 
in all places of education except the gymnasia, where 
their place was taken by Hermes were honoured by a 
great festival every month, probably also by a humble 
daily offering, just as all proceedings in the law courts, 
all meetings of the Assembly, were preceded by minor 
sacrifices. To the Muses, whose shrine was erected by 
Plato, probably in the garden, were added the Graces. 
Their statues were placed there by Plato's nephew, who 
also provided them with an inscription, the words of which 
are still extant 

" Goddesses, take this gift of goddesses, Muses of Graces ; 
These Speusippus set up, grateful for knowledge bestowed." 

The lectures were delivered in halls in which, besides 
the iSfS/oa, or chief seat, there were placed rows of stone 
benches, such as have recently been discovered at Delos 
and Olympia, in the immediate proximity of gymnasia. 
The liberality with which such institutions were treated by 
the local authorities (denies) was, perhaps, due not least 
of all to the prospect of material advantages. For the 
presence of a large number of students and the increased 
use of the gymnasium brought additional employment and 
profit to the inhabitants of the district in which it was 
situated. Plato gradually gathered round him a band of 
young men from all parts of Greece. Only a minority had 
chosen science for their calling in life ; most of them sought 
general culture, chiefly as a preparation for politics. It 
would appear that the larger part of them belonged to the 
propertied classes. We learn from the gibes of the comic 
poets that the young Academics affected a certain studied 
elegance of dress and manner. They might be known by 
the careful arrangement of their hair, their dainty caps, 
and exquisite walking-sticks matters in which they pre- 
sented a contrast, probably intentional, to the less civilized 
fashions of the rival school of Antisthenes (cf. p. 151). 
Financially, the school must have been mainly supported 


by voluntary contributions from the pupils. We find 
mention of occasional assistance received from a few 
friends of great wealth, such as Dion of Syracuse, but 
without an abundance of fees, whether fixed in amount 
or left to the discretion of the student, it is hard to see 
how the institution could have maintained its existence. 
Had Plato defrayed all expenses out of his own means, so 
singular a circumstance would not have passed unnoticed. 
Nor was his financial position any too brilliant. This appears 
partly from the fact that his father received a grant of land 
in the conquered island of ^Egina, partly from the story of 
his redemption from slavery by his friends, and the use, 
already referred to, which was made of the money declined 
by Anniceris. Nor are these inferences contradicted by 
Plato's will, a document which, but for a single lacuna, has 
been preserved entire. The Academy, as we shall now briefly 
designate the institution, could not, in its modest beginnings, 
compete for a moment in extent and magnificence with 
the school founded by Aristotle, the tutor of princes. Still, 
the two institutions had certain fundamental features in 
common. It is a remarkable fact, though one which can 
be strictly proved and satisfactorily explained, that neither 
of them possessed a library in which the founder's works 
were preserved. Neither of them possessed the rights of 
a corporation from the first or for a long time to come ; 
they were the property of the founder, and were transferred 
by testamentary disposition from him to others, who again 
bequeathed them to definite individuals. There was no 
regular endowment or trust fund ; instead, an earnest appeal 
was made to the conscience of the heirs, who were adjured 
to keep the institution accessible to all "fellow-students of 
philosophy," and to maintain it as common property, "just 
as if it were a holy place," to quote a significant clause 
from the will of Theophrastus. The president or " leader " 
of the school was always in the first instance nominated by 
the founder ; afterwards the office was generally filled by 
election. In the Academy, as in many mediaeval universities, 
the appointment was made by the direct, secret vote of all 
the young men. The result was occasionally unexpected ; 


and sometimes, as in the case of the third head of the 
school, was arrived at by a bare majority. Mere con- 
siderations of courtesy were sometimes allowed to prevail ; 
thus we read that Socratides, who had been elected solely 
because of his seniority, voluntarily renounced a dignity 
which he had not earned in any way. It seems natural to 
infer from all this that the president was by no means the 
only teacher a point on which we have little detailed 
information that we can trust, beyond the statement that 
Plato himself was assisted by Speusippus and Menedemus 
of Pyrrha. It is equally clear that instruction did not 
necessarily come to a standstill during the temporary 
absence of the head ; as, for example, when Plato visited 
Sicily for the second and third time. 

There can be no doubt that Plato's own work as a 
teacher covered most of the branches of philosophy. That 
notes of his lectures were taken down by pupils, and some- 
times published afterwards, we learn from casual allusions 
of Aristotle and from the title of one of his lost works. A 
certain amusing incident, a favourite story of Aristotle's 
teaches us that some at least of Plato's lecture-courses 
were open to an extensive circle of auditors, and that if 
the expectations aroused by the title were disappointed, 
even Plato himself could not escape a fiasco. Besides 
lectures, his work included the discussion of philosophical 
problems in classes consisting of a much smaller number of 
pupils. These discussions, echoes of which reach us in 
some of the later dialogues, may not inaptly be compared 
to the exercises of a German Seminar. Possibly we have 
in this circumstance the explanation of a statement which, 
taken absolutely, is not quite credible, namely, that in his 
later years (when, be it observed, his fame was greatest and 
his pupils most numerous) he delivered his lectures in his 
own little garden and nowhere else. Still greater intimacy 
with the master was enjoyed by at least a select portion of 
the disciples, some of whom, it would appear, were every 
day invited by him to share his midday meal. Not a few 
of them, in any case, must have taken part in the banquets 
to which we have already referred. It is clear that Plato 



found his most effective recreation in cheerful and refined 
converse over the wine-bowl ; and here, too, he saw one of 
the most potent instruments of education. His successors 
were of the same mind ; some of them the affable 
Speusippus, the ponderous Xenocrates, the indefatigable 
Aristotle did not disdain to draw up " Rules for the 
Table" and " Drinking-codes," thus providing a wholesome 
discipline for their guests even in external matters. Of the 
powerful impulses which proceeded from the Academy, and 
of the personality of its members, it will be time to speak 
later on, at a more suitable stage of this exposition. 

For the effects produced by the foundation of this school 
did in truth reach out far into the ages. At the entrance 
of the Academy stood an antique monument, used as the 
starting-point in torch-races, instituted in honour of the 
friend of man, the Titan Prometheus. Ten lines of runners 
ten being the number of the Attic tribes took up their 
stand at measured intervals, and, passing their torches from 
hand to hand, strove to carry them to the goal still burning. 
The great Athenian schools of philosophy were engaged in 
a similar contest. It was the earnest endeavour of all of 
them to preserve undimmed and bear onwards through 
successive generations that flame which had been kindled 
from the Promethean spark. And in this contest the 
school of Plato, which outlived all the others, carried off 
the prize. 

We have now followed up to a certain point the life- 
journey of the man who founded the Academy. Here, for 
the present, we leave the subject, at least in its more 
external aspect. His ship has gained the sheltering 
harbour from which it will not yet for a while be driven 
to face the storms again. In the mean time we shall 
endeavour to trace the course of Plato's inner development 
during the interval, with such guidance as may be had from 
the products of his genius. 





I. THE problem which we hope to solve in the next 
section is beset with difficulties of no common order. In 
no case not even if the external conditions had been the 
most favourable we can think of would it have been an 
easy one. Let us indulge for once in a vision of what 
might have been. Let us imagine that some one intimate 
with Plato his nephew Speusippus, for example had done 
something which would have cost him no more than a 


quarter of an hour of his leisure, and would have rendered 
a lasting service to the history of philosophy suppose he 
had jotted down on some loose sheet the chronological 
order of his uncle's writings, and that this memorandum 
had been preserved. We should not then have been 
deprived of the most important auxiliary in the study of 
Plato's mental history. Gaps, it is true, would still have 
remained, such as those which, in Goethe's case, for 
example, are filled up with the help of copious diaries, an 
extensive correspondence, a great number of conversations 
reported by contemporaries. But our present problem 
might have been regarded as solved in the main. Still, the 
historian's difficulties would not even then have been 
entirely removed. The two main lines of inquiry that 
which follows the chronological sequence, and that which 
follows the connexion of ideas would still have crossed 
each other at every turn. As things are, the case 
is vastly worse than this. When we have to do with a 


thinker whose career was one of restless advance (and 
Plato was such a thinker), the standpoint of development 
cannot be neglected with impunity. But it is only here 
and there that the necessary materials lie ready to our 
hand. Thus, in respect of the " Laws," we learn from 
Aristotle that this dialogue was subsequent to the 
" Republic ; " from other authorities, that it was published 
posthumously, and consequently that it was the work of 
Plato's extreme old age. Here, then, the literary tradition 
comes up to our ideal ; the relative order of the two works, 
and the exact date of one of them, though not of both, 
are known to us with absolute certainty. The inquiring 
spirit of our century has not, however, been deterred 
by the obstacles which stand, mountain-high, across its 
path. The chronological order and the authenticity of 
Plato's writings have been the subjects of endless 
investigation and discussion, with the result, happily, 
that out of a great number of widely divergent views, 
something like an agreement has been evolved at least so 
near an approach to agreement as contains the promise of 
further progress in the same direction. 

These doubts respecting genuineness are the reverse 
side of an extraordinary, indeed an unparalleled, piece of 
good fortune. Of all the original thinkers of ancient 
Greece, Plato is the only one whose works have been pre- 
served entire. All that he ever wrote has come down to 
us, and something more as well. This something more is 
still sub judice. Even in ancient days, experts were not 
altogether of one mind on the subject. Our authorities 
speak of " genuine " dialogues, of doubtful dialogues, of 
dialogues " rejected by all." This last class, some of 
which have been lost, need not trouble us further. But 
the doubtful dialogues grew, during the first two-thirds 
of the nineteenth century, to be a terribly large frac- 
tion of the whole. That critical sense which had been 
exercised in the field of history, philology, and, not least of 
all, theology, was gradually cultivated to an unnatural and 
excessive degree of keenness. Things came to such a pass 
at last that even the boldest quailed and began to doubt 


his right to doubt. Only a quarter of Plato's works had 
survived the ordeal ; of the remaining three-fourths each 
had, by at least one vote, been condemned as spurious. 
We may note, in passing, that this verdict contained an 
unintentional, but exaggerated, tribute to the genius of 
Plato. Only the most perfect of his creations were judged 
worthy of him. And yet this extravagance of scepticism 
might have been avoided if Aristotle's warning had been 
heeded. For he closes his criticism of the " Laws >: with 
the following remark, aimed at Plato's writings in general : 
" There is genius and intellect, originality and stimulus, in 
them all ; still we can hardly expect to find them faultless 
in every part." It was overlooked that the career of even 
the most gifted artist has its stages of preparation, its 
moments of weariness ; and that to disallow all his sketches, 
preliminary essays, and only half-successful studies, is much 
the same thing as to strip away from a chain of mountain- 
peaks the lesser heights which lead up to them and the 
passes which divide them. Nor is it only by the perfection 
of his art that Plato has diminished the credit of his own 
works. The very breadth and greatness of his intellect 
has contributed, indirectly, to the same result. The un- 
remitting practice of the most searching self-criticism is so 
far from being to every one's taste that not every one can 
as much as understand or believe in it. " Is it credible," 
wrote a hot-headed critic at the beginning of the nine- 
teenth century, " that Plato can have intended to contro- 
vert a fundamental point of his own system ? ' On the 
ground of this incredibility a particular work (the 
" Sophist ") was rejected, just as in our own day a second 
has been condemned because, as is asserted, it is not given 
to the "originator of a theory ... to hit on such over- 
whelming objections ' as those which are urged in the 
" Parmenides " against the doctrine of ideas. Moreover, 
the hypercritical method seemed in danger of revolving in 
a perpetual circle. One critic objected to work A because 
of its real or supposed discrepancy with B ; another sus- 
pected B because of its real or supposed discrepancy with 
A. It became necessary, as the more clear-sighted 


Friedrich Schleiermacher, for example had early per- 
ceived, to provide criticism with an unassailable basis of 
operations : to establish a nucleus of works whose authen- 
ticity should be raised above all doubt, and which should 
then serve as an unimpeachable standard to try the claims 
of the residue. In order to avoid every possibility of error 
in this preliminary work, it became desirable to discover 
and collect a mass of such testimony as even the most 
hardened doubter would shrink from challenging. In this 
category the foremost place was very properly given to the 
citations contained in the writings of Aristotle passages 
in which the reference is implicit, as well as those where a 
work of Plato is mentioned by name. 

A path was thus entered upon which has, in point of 
fact, led to the establishment of solid results. But here, as 
elsewhere, the wrong road lay hard by the right. Arrived 
at the parting of the ways, criticism took the wrong turn 
unawares, and strayed further and further away from the 
true course. The value of the testimony collected was, we 
do not say over-estimated, but misestimated. That which 
is attested by Aristotle is genuine beyond question ; but 
that which is not attested by him is not therefore spurious, 
or even sullied by the least taint of doubt. Only the half of 
Aristotle's works are in our hands ; and, more than that, 
the citations contained in that half are all incidental in 
character ; they are chiefly of a polemical nature, and their 
occurrence is purely a matter of chance. The " argument 
from silence " has thus, in this instance, no force whatever. 
To take an example, the " Protagoras," one of the greatest 
and most brilliant of the dialogues, and one against which 
no whisper of suspicion has ever been breathed, is nowhere 
mentioned by Aristotle ; and it is only in recent years that 
certain references to it have been discovered, such as would 
hardly be deemed adequate to establish the genuineness of 
a disputed work. On the other hand, a single piece of 
positive testimony may be of the highest importance, not 
only for a particular work, but for the whole family to 
which it belongs, if it guarantees the authenticity of a 
dialogue such as the ' Lesser Hippias," which has been 
treated with scant respect by modern criticism. 


2. That relative inferiority of a production which pro- 
vokes distrust is only a particular variety of a compre- 
hensive class, that of deviations from the normal type, or 
type deduced from the other works of the same master. 
Thus a picture bearing on its front the name of Titian may 
be adjudged as spurious, not only if it is marred by faults 
such as Titian could not have been guilty of, but also if it 
exhibits a number of peculiarities foreign to all the known 
styles of that artist. In the application of this canon great 
breadth of judgment is required, and the more so the longer 
the active career of the artist, the greater the number, and 
more especially the variety, of his works. These con- 
siderations are relevant in an especial measure to the case 
of Plato. Even supposing he never penned a line before 
he was thirty, his literary activity must have lasted a full 
half-century. The projects of social reform contained in 
his " Republic " and " Laws ' bear entirely different com- 
plexions, and in the presentations of his other doctrines 
there are not wanting similar instances of deep-seated dis- 
crepancy. His ftterary manner for example, his handling 
of the dialogue form is by no means always the same ; his 
language undergoes manifold transformations both in style 
and vocabulary. Thus three of his latest works ("Timaeus," 
" Critias," "Laws") contain nearly 1500 words which are 
absent from his other works, and some, indeed, from the 
whole of the literature of his time. What, then, is proved if 
in a particular dialogue we detect a small number of words 
or phrases not met with elsewhere in Plato, or even if we 
find a few thoughts which have no close parallels in his 
other works ? Indeed, we must be prepared to encounter 
serious contradictions, not only in thought, but in that 
which lies deeper and should therefore be less subject 
to change in tone and sentiment. In the " Apology," 
Aristophanes the comic poet is represented as being, 
morally, the chief prosecutor of Socrates, and consequently 
responsible for his execution. But in the " Symposium," 
Socrates and the author of the " Clouds ' are boon com- 
panions, and on the friendliest of footings. Let us suppose, 
what is contrary to fact, that one or other of these two 


dialogues had not been proof against every assault. The 
assertion that both works could not possibly have come 
from the same hand might very easily in such a case have 
gained all but universal acceptance, or even have become 
a shibboleth by which the true and only " scientific critics " 
would have recognized each other with unfailing certainty. 

There is only one kind of discrepancy which possesses 
absolute probative force conflict with the ascertained facts 
of history, above all, references or allusions to persons, 
events, modes of thought or speech, such as may be shown 
by irrefragable proofs to have lain outside all possible 
knowledge of the alleged author of a given work. On such 
a basis, for example, rests the universal rejection of the 
work " De Mundo," once attributed to Aristotle. For this 
work contains, in such numbers as exclude the hypothesis 
of chance, doctrines and technical terms which we know, 
on trustworthy authority, to have been first current in the 
post-Aristotelian Stoic school. The Platonic corpus, how- 
ever, affords but few openings for the use of this critical 
weapon, the most effective of those with which we are here 
concerned. There is thus abundant need for caution ; 
and additional warning is supplied, not only by the con- 
tradictions, bordering on the grotesque, which obtain 
between the subjective "feeling for what is Platonic' 1 of 
this and that particular investigator, but also by an ob- 
jective fact of considerable weight. Internal grounds of 
suspicion, such as are not of convincing force taken by 
themselves, necessarily produce a stronger or weaker effect 
according to the presumption which arises out of the way 
in which a work has been preserved. Let us suppose, 
for example, that a work were to make its appearance 
to-morrow, purporting to be part of the literary remains 
of Goethe, but, at the same time, arousing the distrust of 
the best experts by its form or matter. The circumstance 
that Goethe's literary remains have been uninterruptedly in 
the keeping of trustworthy hands would carry great weight 
in the final decision of the point. On the other hand, 
when, a few decades ago, certain letters were given to the 
world which were alleged to have been written by the 


unfortunate Queen Marie Antoinette, there was no similar 
counterpoise to the internal evidences of forgery which at 
once presented themselves. For the editor of these profit- 
able letters had no better account to give of their origin 
than that some of them had formerly been in the possession 
of an unnamed member of the Convention, and the rest 
in that of an equally unnamed antiquary. The Platonic 
cycle occupies an intermediate position between these two 
extremes. It is true, as we have already remarked, that 
Plato's writings were not preserved in a library attached to 
his school ; but there must have been a fairly large group 
of intimate disciples who were well able to distinguish 
what was genuine from what was spurious, and these men 
can have had no motive, worthy or unworthy, for remaining 
silent when occasion arose for a timely protest against 
fraud or error. Nor are we altogether dependent on the 
testimony of late manuscripts. Some of the disputed 
dialogues are authenticated by replies to them which 
appeared within a century of Plato's death, or by the 
testimony of ancient papyrus-rolls found in Egypt (Lysis, 
Euthydemus, Laches). The composition of the entire 
body of works is known to us from a list, compiled, 
about the year 200 B.C., by the learned Aristophanes of 
Byzantium, then director of the Alexandrian Library, and 
used by him as the basis of his critical edition. Only 
a part of this list, it is true, has been preserved to us, 
namely, the enumeration of those fifteen dialogues which 
Aristophanes arranged in trilogies, while our intermediary 
authority says of the rest nothing more than " the remain- 
ing writings singly and in no fixed order." There is hardly 
any doubt, however, that a later list, that of Thrasyllus, 
which contains the thirty-six works known to us, arranged 
in tetralogies, is based on the list of Aristophanes, and 
may be accepted as representing it in regard to the lost 

At the same time, there are indications in the ancient 
tradition itself which suggest doubts as to its absolute 
trustworthiness. Of the thirteen letters included in the Pla- 
tonic collection more exactly twelve, as the first purports 


to have been written by Dion to Dionysius there is one, 
the twelfth, which in our manuscripts has the following 
note appended to it : " The Platonic authorship is con- 
tested." Of similar import is the statement that Thrasyllus, 
who had included the " Anterastae 5: in his edition, yet 
qualified a casual allusion to that dialogue with the pro- 
viso : " if, indeed, the ' Anterastse ' is the work of Plato." 
These qualifying clauses and expressions of doubt had 
their origin, as has been conjectured with great probability, 
in the catalogues of the great libraries themselves. When 
the librarians at Pergamum or Alexandria had volumes 
offered to them of somewhat suspicious origin, they would 
naturally, and quite rightly, incline rather towards purchase 
than rejection. For a work was thus saved from threatened 
destruction, while such suspicions as could not be imme- 
diately confirmed or allayed might be placed on record by 
a note in the catalogue. Thus between the incontestably 
authentic and the incontestably spurious there might easily 
come into being an intermediate zone of doubtful works. 
Other works whose Platonic authorship was disputed in 
antiquity, some of them for stated reasons, are : the 
" Hipparchus," " Alcibiades II.," and the " Epinomis/' which 
last was ascribed to Philippus of Opus, the pupil and 
amanuensis of Plato, who edited the " Laws." (We must 
place in quite a different category the ineptitudes of certain 
Stoics and Neo-Platonists, who had the hardihood to deny 
Plato's authorship of works the " Phsedo ' : and the 
" Republic ' among them whose teaching they found 
unpalatable.) Now, since those librarians' catalogue-notes, 
as well as the other expressions of doubt which deserve 
any consideration, have come to our knowledge quite 
casually, we are unable to judge with any certainty of 
their extent ; and the critic remains at liberty to include 
in his sceptical raids those works which do not labour 
under any stigma that we know of. Only he must proceed 
with the very greatest caution, for reasons which we have 
already stated. As regards the results which have been 
obtained in this direction, it seems less important to 
register the author's personal views than to sum up the 


present position of the inquiry in a few words. Besides the 
minor writings already mentioned, there are three dialogues 
the " Theages," the " Minos," and the " Clitophon "none 
of them of any great length, which are regarded by the great 
majority of investigators as un-Platonic. The " Greater 
Hippias," " Alcibiades I.," and the " Ion ' have not been 
condemned so emphatically ; but here again the verdict is 
on the whole unfavourable. In all other instances the case 
for rejection is represented by not more than a limited 
number of specialists, and it is unnecessary to mention 
details at the present stage. The letters are the subject of 
a controversy which is not yet settled. Practically no one 
believes in the genuineness of them all ; the bulk of them, 
however, in spite of the low esteem in which they were 
held a short time ago, have recently found champions of 

3. Ancient tradition, from which we thus derive a 
certain amount of assistance in discussing problems of 
authenticity, leaves us almost entirely in the lurch when we 
come to the question of chronological order. Here we 
distinguish between absolute and relative dates. Of the 
former there is a most deplorable lack ; in respect of the 
latter, though tradition yields next to nothing, a great deal 
of learned ingenuity has been expended, and finally, after 
many failures, certain positive results have been established, 
and certain methods discovered, the continued application 
of which promises a considerable harvest still to come. Of 
the data furnished by tradition there is but one the posi- 
tion of the " Laws " as the terminal point of Plato's literary 
activity which is both absolutely trustworthy and at the 
same time instructive in any great degree. When, on the 
other hand, we read in a late author, " The story goes that 
Plato wrote the ' Phoedrus ' first of all ; the subject " (to a 
great extent erotic) " is particularly congenial to a youthful 
writer," we feel that the fact has grown out of the reason 
given for it. Nor is there any more weight in an anecdote 
reported by the same author and prefaced with " it is said," 
to the effect that when Plato read his " Lysis J aloud, 
Socrates exclaimed, "By Heracles! What a number of 


untrue stones the young man has been telling about me ! " 
A little more consideration, but not much, is due to a 
couple of dates which the majority of investigators regard 
as established by internal evidence. It is supposed that 
the composition of the " Meno " cannot have been anterior 
to 395, nor that of the " Symposium >: to 384, because in 
the first-named dialogue there is mention of an incident 
which occurred in the earlier year, the bribing of Ismenias 
the Theban by the Persians ; while the second dialogue 
alludes to a dispersion of the Arcadians by the Spartans 
which we cannot but identify with the destruction of 
Mantinea, effected in the later of the two years. The 
first of these dates possesses no great significance, for 
it would hardly occur to any one to place the " Meno " 
before the year in question, preceded as it must have been 
by the " Protagoras " and its kindred dialogues. 

The comparative study of the language and matter of 
Plato's works has been prolific in a very different degree. 
Here, too, many mistakes have been made, and have 
betrayed themselves by the glaring contradictions to which 
they led ; still the residue of definitively acquired results is 
very considerable and steadily increases. If at the close of 
one dialogue a problem is left unsolved, while in a second 
dialogue a solution is found for it ; if a subject is treated 
playfully and tentatively in the one, with depth and mastery 
in the other ; if in the one a foundation is laid, and in the 
other a superstructure reared upon it ; if an investigation is 
here projected, and there actually entered upon ; if dialogue 
A contains clearly anticipatory references to B, or D is 
obviously reminiscent of C ; in all such cases the relative 
order of the two works in question is settled beyond a 
doubt. At this point we can imagine the reader asking, 
with some surprise But is not an author's advance, his 
progress towards perfection, the surest criterion for the 
chronological arrangement of his works ? So it is, without 
a doubt. The inquiry we are considering has for its object 
the elucidation of this very progress, this development both 
of the thinker and of the author. But that object can only 
be attained by circuitous methods, for the very simple 


reason that different people hold very different standards 
of perfection, both in matter and in style ; in short, the 
method allows far too much liberty to subjective and 
arbitrary appreciations. Accordingly, this inquiry did not 
reach anything like a tranquil haven until the endeavour 
was made to obtain data of as objective and external a 
character as possible. We refer to linguistic criteria and 
the method of verbal statistics. 

4. There is hardly a single author of ancient or modern 
times whose works have been subjected to so thorough- 
going a linguistic analysis as those of Plato. The labour 
which has been expended on things trifling in themselves 
may seem foolish or perverse to the outsider; but Jakob 
Grimm's " devotion to the little " has perhaps nowhere else 
been more richly rewarded. The results obtained can here 
only be indicated in outline. 

Certain combinations of particles, meaning roughly 
" but how ? " " but perhaps," " but yet," are entirely absent 
from the half of Plato's works. On the other hand, they 
occur with great frequency in his latest work, and with 
increasing frequency in a series of other writings of his. It 
has been rightly inferred that the first group belongs to his 
early period, the second to his advanced age. A precisely 
similar result has been obtained in another quarter, and 
quite independently, by an examination of his vocabulary. 
As we have already remarked by the way, certain dialogues 
contain an extraordinarily large number of words which are 
foreign to all the other writings of Plato. This group is con- 
nected, not only by the common tendency towards innova- 
tion, but by the common character of some of the innovations, 
with a work known to be the latest that Plato wrote the 
" Laws." And there are other peculiarities of style, ranging 
from the most obvious to the most subtle, from the dis- 
placement of one particle of comparison by another, or a 
preferential use of special formulae of affirmation and 
special superlatives, to the imponderabilia of syntax, word- 
arrangement, and accent all indicating, in a manner which 
excludes chance, a surprisingly close relationship between 
the members of this group. That which gives us confidence 


in these results is the astonishing agreement between many 
different investigations an agreement which greatly pre- 
ponderates over the undeniable discrepancies. That such 
discrepancies were bound to occur seems clear from the 
nature of the case ; we will content ourselves here with 
mentioning a few of the chief sources of error. There are 
other distinctions, besides those of date, between the 
different works of an author ; some, for example, may be 
more popular, others of a more strictly scientific character, 
this distinction must affect the style, and may disturb the 
similarity natural to two works which are chronologically 
near to each other. Further, we have to take account of 
the possibility that the form in which a given work lies 
before us maybe that of a revision, such as is demanded by 
a new edition, so that the inference from style to date of 
composition loses something of its cogency. Another work 
may occupy the position of a belated straggler : a thinker 
may have desired to complete a group of his youthful 
writings by a subsequent addition, which is thus connected 
with an earlier phase by its matter, and a later by its form. 
These are some of the possibilities which diminish the 
chronological applicability of verbal statistics, and there is 
an observed fact which merits mention along with them. 
The linguistic development of Plato, astonishing as was its 
extent, did not follow a uniform straight line. There are 
instances in which we find our author adopting a habit of 
language, letting it grow upon him, and then gradually 
dropping it. For all that, the method of verbal statistics 
may be held worthy of confidence, provided that the con- 
sequences to which it leads are, on the whole, consistent 
with each other, and do not contradict either the other 
criteria we have enumerated, the facts vouched for by 
reliable tradition, or the indications supplied by Plato him- 
self. The method would stand condemned if it required 
us, for example, to place the " Laws " before the " Re- 
public," to reverse the order of the trilogies constructed by 
Plato (" Republic " " Timseus " " Critias ;" " Theaetetus " 
" Sophist " " Statesman "), or to misinterpret clearly 
retrospective or anticipatory references. The case would 


be worse still if the results of this method took away all 
possibility of forming some conception, commensurate with 
the general facts of humanity and the individual data, of 
the course of development followed by the thinker and the 
author. However, none of these unfavourable possibilities 
is realized. The determination of chronologically separate 
groups, and the distribution among these groups of the 
individual dialogues (with a few, but not unimportant, 
exceptions) are problems which may be regarded as finally 
solved ; the more ambitious task of settling the chronological 
order within all the groups cannot as yet be said to have 
been completed. 

Building on these foundations, we propose to give an 
account of Plato's literary and philosophical development, 
for which purpose we shall divide his career into several 
stages. All his works of undoubted authenticity will be 
examined, more or less thoroughly, for the most part in 
the order of their composition. But this plan will not 
exclude occasional glances forwards and backwards ; when 
necessity arises, chronological proximity will yield to 
similarity of subject. 




I. EXACTLY sixty years ago a German student of antiquity, 
a man whose blunt and homely common sense was neither 
exalted nor impaired by over-refinement, gave expression to 
a truth which, to us at least, has always seemed self-obvious. 
It was then that Karl Friedrich Hermann asserted the 
existence of a purely Socratic period at the commencement 
of Plato's literaiy career. Nothing, indeed, could be more 
natural than that a devoted disciple, even if a genius, 
perhaps all the more because a genius, should set out in 
the first instance on paths already trodden by his master, 
before opening up and entering upon new ones adapted 
to his own slowly ripening individuality. What is at first a 
conjecture becomes a certainty as soon as we find among 
the works of the pupil, say Raphael or Plato, productions 
permeated throughout by the spirit or the manner of Peru- 
gino or Socrates. In the present case, internal evidence 
is supported by documentary testimony of the first rank. 
Aristotle, who during the last twenty years of Plato's life 
was among the most intimate of his disciples, reports that 
the doctrine of self-existent concepts or archetypes was an 
innovation of Plato, entirely foreign to Socrates. We at 
once judge it probable that in Plato's earliest writings this 
continuation of the Socratic doctrine of concepts did not 
appear an hypothesis which is amply borne out by the 
facts. There are a number of Plato's works which contain 
no trace of the so-called doctrine of ideas. And since 
these very works exhibit the characteristics of the early 


linguistic period, while in most of them the composition 
is marked by relative simplicity, there is much to commend 
and little to discountenance the assumption that in these 
we have before us the first fruits of Plato's muse. It is true 
that K. F. Hermann was not the first to speak of a Socratic 
period, but his predecessors, in building on the foundation 
of truth thus won, had committed the error of ascribing to 
that period some of those very dialogues in which the 
doctrine of ideas is expounded. 

In this first series of his writings Plato appears as an 
ethical conceptualist. That is to say, the subject-matter of 
his inquiry is Ethics, and the mode of it the investigation of 
concepts. In process of time this germ will undergo mani- 
fold differentiation. The living content of Ethics, besides its 
mere concepts, will be accorded greater and greater promi- 
nence. From moral philosophy the thinker will press on to 
the study of its psychological foundations. He will enter 
deeply into the problems of the soul's nature and destiny, 
not uninfluenced, in these matters, by the speculations of 
the Orphics and the Pythagoreans. On the other hand, for 
reasons which we have already noticed shortly (cf. p. 180, 
sqq.), and which we shall discuss more particularly later on, 
he came to see in concepts real essences, to the knowledge 
of which the soul has attained in a previous existence. A 
bridge will thus be constructed between a psychology tinged 
with religion and ontology or metaphysic. Again, the 
content of ethics will be widened ; the thinker's gaze will 
pass on from the individual personality to the social and 
political organism. Lastly, after several important writings 
have dealt separately with different sections of the great 
whole, a mighty edifice will be raised, Plato's master- work, 
appearing from its name (the " Republic ") to be dedicated 
to politics or extended ethics alone, but really housing, in 
its many chambers, all the parts of the Platonic system. 
But the attainment of this culminating height is followed 
by no cessation or interruption of activity ; it rather marks 
the beginning of a new and laborious task, which may 
be shortly described as one of revision. The aging, but 
unwearied thinker subjects the whole of his intellectual 



stock to a searching examination. That which survives 
the ordeal is retained and defended against objections 
his own as well as those of other critics nor is the defence 
wholly unvaried by episodes of aggression. The residue 
is partly remodelled, partly allowed to drop. An entirely 
new addition the only one is supplied by Plato's late- 
matured theory of Nature. This concluding phase is, 
chronologically, the best-authenticated of all. It may be 
regarded as definitely established that the " Sophist " 
and the " Statesman," the " Timseus," " Critias," and 
" Philebus," form, together with the " Laws," a single 
group, and that the latest in the series ; while the middle 
group, as was to be expected, is less immune from 
boundary-disputes affecting its limits in both directions. 

The first question to be considered is When did Plato 
begin to write ? Hardly before the death of Socrates, as 
we have already said, but certainly not long after that 
fateful event, and thenceforth his literary activity must 
have been fairly continuous. This last point is usually 
considered doubtful. It is generally assumed that at the 
most he took up the pen in the intervals between his 
travels, but that during the time occupied by them he 
lacked the necessary leisure and quiet. But this assump- 
tion has no justification. Change of residence and environ- 
ment, if not too feverishly rapid, rather stimulates a 
productive nature than diminishes its output. We recall 
Descartes in the camp before Breda, or Goethe's sojourns in 
Rome. Plato needed no cumbrous outfit for the greater 
part of his work, certainly not for that part of it which is 
here in question. All he wanted was his head, his heart, 
and writing-materials. With so richly endowed a nature 
as his, head and heart must have been full to overflowing, 
even at that early period of his life. We find no difficulty, 
therefore, in the thought of Plato busy over his dialogues 
at Tarentum or Cyrene, in Egypt or Sicily ; and we even 
think that the freer life abroad was more favourable to 
artistic creation than his position at the head of a compli- 
cated institution. We can imagine, too, how the sojourner 
among strangers must have rejoiced to conjure up before 


his mind's eye the happy scenes of his youth and home, 
to transport himself once more to the shady avenues and 
the " semicircles ' : of the gymnasia, where the voice of 
Socrates the voice that had stirred up a new life within 
him first fell on his ear and sank into his soul. 

2. Such are the scenes to which we shall shortly be 
introduced. But not more than an indefinite outline forms 
the setting of the dialogue which appears to have been the 
earliest composed, that is, if too great simplicity of structure 
and corresponding smallness of range may be taken as 
indications of an early date. We refer to the so-called 
" Lesser Hippias." The reader has already made t the 
acquaintance (Vol. I. p. 431) of the teacher of youth who 
bore this name. He is here matched against Socrates ; 
the third interlocutor, Eudicus, unknown to us from any 
other source, is an all but mute character in the dialogue. 
Hippias has just delivered, apparently within the gymna- 
sium, a speech on Homer as an exhibition of rhetoric. 
The bulk of the audience has dispersed ; Socrates remains 
behind, and, a propos of the speech, raises questions on the 
character of Homeric heroes. Hippias having declared 
Achilles to be the best, Nestor the wisest, and Ulysses the 
" wiliest," Socrates fastens on this last characteristic as 
a subject of cross-examination. To begin with, he drives 
Hippias to replace the ambiguous word "wily " by " false," 
and thus to contrast Ulysses with the true and straight- 
forward Achilles. He then wrings from him the admission 
that the false do not lie from lack of ability or knowledge, 
but that their falseness rests on insight and understanding. 
A Socratic induction, setting out from the sophists' 
favourite art of arithmetic, leads to the result that the 
particular department in which any one excels is also that 
in which he is best able to deceive. Supposing, for 
example, that a bad arithmetician wished to impart false 
information on the product 3 X 700, he might conceivably 
tell the truth by mistake j a good one, whatever other 
number he might mention, would be careful to avoid 2100. 
But if we allow that the same department in which each 
person can best tell the truth is also that in which he can 


lie best, the above antithesis between the characters of the 
two Homeric heroes cannot be maintained. 

After a few humorous digressions, in which the " Iliad " 
itself is laid under contribution for proofs that even Achilles 
himself was not always at pains to be truthful ; after several 
instances of somewhat exaggerated self-depreciation on the 
part of Socrates ; and after a few scornful references to 
the unexampled many-sidedness of the sophist, who was 
shoemaker as well as poet, tailor as well as mnemonist 
(Vol. I. p. 431) ; after these interludes, which, so to speak, 
provide a resting-place in the middle of the little dialogue, 
the discussion of the main question is resumed. Hippias 
had, rightly enough, explained those lapses from truth of 
Achilles which Socrates had mentioned, as involuntary. 
It was no intention to deceive, but the force of external 
circumstances, that had brought his actions into disaccord 
with his words ; it was the desperate position of the army 
that had prevented him from withdrawing, as he had 
threatened. The question then arises Which is the 
better man, he who errs voluntarily, or he who does so 
involuntarily ? 

Again Socrates enters the familiar path of induction. 
Of two runners, singers, or wrestlers, that one is always 
the better who runs slowly, sings false, is thrown by his 
adversary, only when he wishes ; the worse of the two is 
he whose inferior performance is involuntary. The case 
is the same with the use of tools, including the organs of 
sense and motion. Every one would prefer to have eyes 
and feet with which he can see badly or walk lamely on 
purpose, rather than such as make dim vision or limping 
a necessity. The same is true of a rudder, a bow, of an 
animal and its soul, lastly of a human soul too, which 
is used as an instrument. The cavalier prefers a capable 
horse-soul, the commander a capable soldier-soul, to one 
which is incapable and therefore likely to err involuntarily. 
After additional illustrations, drawn from the practice of 
medicine, music, and so on, we come to the threshold 
of the strange question Is not he who does wrong 
voluntarily better than he whose faults are involuntary ? 


The startled Hippias is asked whether justice is anything 
else than either a power, a kind of wisdom, or both 
together ; in all three cases the affirmative answer turns 
out to be inevitable. In the first case the more capable 
or efficient soul is the juster, in the second the wiser soul, 
in the third the soul which combines both excellences ; 
the less capable and the less wise soul is the more unjust. 
Now, it has been shown that in all departments the more 
capable and wise is the one who can produce good or evil, 
beauty or ugliness, at pleasure ; while the failures of the 
less gifted are involuntary. Accordingly, the conclusion 
is drawn, guarded by an important reservation, that " the 
better and more capable soul, w/ien it does injustice, will do 
so voluntarily, but the inferior soul involuntarily." And 
the reservation is repeated when the result is still further 
expanded by the substitution of the good man for the just 
man : " He therefore who errs and does unjust and dis- 
graceful things voluntarily, if -such a man exists at all, can 
be none other than the good man." Hippias declares that 
he cannot agree to this, and Socrates answers, " Nor I 
either." And yet the proposition necessarily follows from 
the preceding discussion. "As I have said before, I wander 
to and fro when I attempt these problems, and do not 
remain consistent with myself. With me, or any other 
amateur, perhaps there is nothing surprising in that. But 
when you trained intellects go astray too, it is a black look- 
out for us. It does away with our last hope of coming to 
you to be put right." 

In this little dialogue we notice, not only the uncommon 
skill with which the argument is conducted to its conclusion, 
but also the easy grace with which the goal is concealed 
from view, and agreeable resting-places provided by the 
way. We are particularly struck by a peculiar species 
of wit, which occurs frequently in other works of Plato's 
youth. We refer to certain humorous turns drawn from 
the material of the dialogue itself, such as : " My dear 
Hippias, you are imitating Ulysses and deceiving me ; " or 
(in a passage where the sophist is to be reminded of an 
admission which he would have preferred to be forgotten) : 


" You are not practising your art of memory just now." 
Turning to the content and the real purpose of the dialogue, 
we must first remind the reader of that Socratic doctrine 
which is already familiar to him, and which affirms that 
no man errs of his own free will (cf. p. 66). To this 
doctrine Plato held with unshakable firmness through all 
the changes and shiftings of his opinions. There are works 
belonging to all of his periods which bear sufficient witness 
to this. It is thus utterly incredible that he should have 
seriously called this doctrine in question, particularly in a 
dialogue obviously so near his Socratic starting-point, and 
that he should have combined with this doubt an assertion 
by which common-sense is defied no less than Socratism, 
to the effect that voluntary wrong-doing is better than 
involuntary. That Plato is not in earnest in all this is 
evident from the entirely conditional form in which he 
presents the argument on voluntary wrong-doing. More- 
over, Socrates does not disguise his dissatisfaction with the 
conclusion, in spite of the necessity with which it appears 
to flow from the discussion leading up to it. 

For the rest, the dialogue is unintelligible, except on the 
assumption no very violent one in the case of a work by 
a beginner that it was intended for a restricted circle of 
readers, the author's intellectual kin, all well acquainted 
with the fundamental Socratic doctrines. Such readers 
would easily see through the contradiction between the 
dialogue's apparent conclusion and their master's doctrine 
of will. The paradoxical thesis that the voluntary evil- 
doer is superior to the involuntary is supported by an 
induction which begins with lifeless instruments, goes on 
to our bodily organs of sense and motion, to the souls of 
animals and men of which we make use, and then passes, 
by an imperceptible transition, to our own souls and our 
own actions, a transition which takes us from the region 
of means to that of ends, and then from the region of 
subordinate ends to the supreme end of life. That which 
is shown to hold good of those who purposely sing, row, or 
ride badly, is transferred in the end to the man who acts 
wrongly or unjustly. The error of such a transference may 


be explained as follows : Every subordinate end may 
under circumstances be set aside in favour of another end 
which is recognized as being of superior worth : a man 
may miss the mark voluntarily ; the good runner may 
desire to run slowly in order to spare his health ; the 
man who is skilled in a game may play badly to win the 
favour of his opponent ; the good rider may purposely 
sit his horse badly to warn his pupil against the like fault. 
Can we conclude from such instances as these that the just 
man may also, on occasion, wish to act unjustly ? 

Certainly not, for it is at this point that the quality of a 
man's will comes into play. He cannot, as we say, act 
contrary to his moral character when this is once fixed, nor 
can he, as the Socratics said, ever give up voluntarily that 
happiness or well-being which is the supreme aim of life, 
and with which justice is bound up in the most intimate 
manner : if he does so at all, it must be unintentionally 
and by mistake. The proposition He who voluntarily 
chooses the worse shows a more complete mastery over 
the appropriate instruments, and is thus superior to the 
man who involuntarily chooses the worse or less effective 
means loses its applicability, as may easily be seen, when 
we come to the last member of the series. Plato was well 
aware, we have no doubt, of the exact point at which the 
induction fails, and he set the reader the task of finding it 
out too. He himself "errs of his own free will." In this 
he had a twofold object. Firstly, he desired to provide 
new support for the Socratic doctrine of the involuntariness 
of all evil-doing by clearly stating the contradiction from 
which that doctrine alone, as he thought, can save us. 
On the other hand, he takes delight in showing how a 
moralist like Hippias, possessing ingenuity and eloquence, 
but unschooled in dialectics, may be driven into a corner 
and finally compelled to choose between an absurdity and 
a truth which shocks by its strangeness. 

The correctness of this interpretation is also evidenced 
by the first part of the dialogue. The question here discussed 
relates to the identity of the truthful man and the liar ; as 
proof of such identity the supposed untruthfulness of Achilles 


is adduced. But the pointed character of the objections 
which Hippias is made to urge against this argument leaves 
no doubt on which side Plato himself stood. The purport 
of the discussion can hardly have been other than the 
following : The truthful man and the liar would, in fact, 
be the same, for each would be identical with the possessor 
of the fullest knowledge on the subject of discourse, if such 
knowledge, or, more generally, mastery over the instruments 
of action, were the only factor by which an action is deter- 
mined. But this hypothetical identification, one which 
could easily be extended to a number of other instances 
(physicians, soldiers, and pyrotechnists are respectively 
the same as poisoners, bandits, and incendiaries !), is a 
reductio ad absurdum of the hypothesis, and we may be 
sure it is meant to be nothing else. An early hint is 
given to the reader of truths which clearly appear from 
the main part of the dialogue and its conclusion, the 
truths, namely, that action involves something more than 
mastery over means the choice of ends ; that these, for 
their part, are again means to the highest end, which is 
imposed by nature ; that the moral character of the agent 
depends on his disposition, as we say, that is, from the 
Socratic point of view, on his insight into the foundations 
of that supreme end, well-being, or, to express the same 
thing differently, into the value of the good things of life. 
We shall very soon be brought back to this fundamental 
distinction, and we shall have a good deal to hear about it. 
3. A dialogue of somewhat greater length, the " Laches," 
is more elaborately staged. As the purpose of this work 
may be determined more clearly and certainly than that 
of the " Lesser Hippias," we may take still less account 
of the decorative by-play, and proceed without further 
parley to extract the kernel from its enclosing husk. Just 
as, in the " Hippias," a display of oratory by a sophist, so 
in the " Laches," an exhibition of fighting by a fencing- 
master, supplies an occasion for discussion. Among the 
spectators have been Lysimachus and Melesias, the un- 
renowned sons of the illustrious statesmen Aristides and 
Thucydides. Their earnest desire is to bring up their 


sons, who are named after their famous grandfathers, to be 
worthy of their inheritance ; and they accordingly seek 
the counsel of the eminent generals Laches and Nicias on 
the educational value of the art of fence. Socrates, who is 
present, is also drawn into the discussion ; Laches honours 
him for his courage in battle, and the two youths are 
fascinated by his powers of conversation. He at once 
takes the lead in the discussion, and turns it, as a matter 
of course, in the direction of fundamental questions. As 
the subject under consideration is a training in military 
excellence, he begins by pointing out the propriety of 
giving some thought to the end rather than the means ; 
and the main problem now becomes the investigation of 
that part of the total excellence or virtue which is called 
courage. He next fastens on an attempted definition, 
which represents the first thoughts of his military inter- 
locutors. Courage is steadfastness, a remaining at one's 
post in battle. He recalls the fact that many races win 
their greatest successes in war by simulated flight. The 
first case mentioned is that of the Scythian cavalry. Then 
the restrictions are removed, one by one. The Scythians 
are not alone in this respect, nor are the instances confined 
to cavalry. It was by a manoeuvre of the same kind that 
the Lacedaemonian infantry turned the scale at Plataea. 
Standing firm in battle thus appears, with increasing clear- 
ness, to be too narrow a definition. Courage is in essence 
the same whether displayed by horse or foot, on land or 
sea. And more : there is another courage which is shown 
in facing diseases and privations of all kinds ; other varieties, 
again, appear in the contest with pleasures and desires. 

Under such pressure the search for the most general 
possible definition proceeds, with the result that courage is 
declared to be "a certain endurance of the soul." But 
whereas the former definition turned out to be too narrow, 
the reverse is now the case. For while courage is 
necessarily understood to be something noble and praise- 
worthy, endurance is seen to be not always deserving of 
these epithets. An attempt is therefore made to limit 
the concept ; in order to deserve the name of courage, 


endurance needs to be combined with wisdom or know- 
ledge. But this at once raises a new question Knowledge 
of what? Suppose two soldiers of equal endurance, which 
of them is to be accounted the more courageous : the one 
whose endurance rests on the knowledge that his isolation 
will not last long, that the enemy is inferior in quality and 
numbers to his own side, and is, moreover, in the less 
advantageous position ? Or is he the braver who is in 
the reverse situation ? Surely the latter though his 
endurance is the less wise of the two. Similarly, he who 
endures, being equipped with a knowledge of the rider's 
art, or the bowman's, or the slinger's, is to be deemed less 
courageous than the man who shows equal endurance 
without such equipment. In an extreme case, to be sure, 
as when a diver without knowledge of his art hazards his 
life, endurance becomes fool hardiness, which is an ignoble 
quality and contrasts with courage, already acknowledged 
to be always noble and praiseworthy. The attempt, there- 
fore, to distinguish between genuine and spurious courage 
on these lines has failed and must be abandoned ; a new 
path must be struck out. 

One of the interlocutors now recalls what is to him a 
familiar saying of Socrates, to the effect that every one is 
good in that in which he is wise. If, then, the courageous 
man is a good man, his courage must be a kind of wisdom. 
The question arises What kind ? Surely not the wisdom 
of the performer on the flute or lyre ? Rather is it that 
wisdom which consists in the knowledge of what is dangerous 
and what not, in war as in other things. But an objection 
presents itself. Is it not the experts who, in every depart- 
ment, know most exactly the dangerous and the safe ? In 
the case of diseases this knowledge belongs to the physician, 
in agriculture to the husbandman, and so forth. To this 
it is answered that the physician, for example, can only 
tell what promotes health and what aggravates disease ; 
whether for a given patient sickness is more to be feared 
than health, whether it is better for him to get well again 
or to die, is a question beyond medicine. It is the same 
with those to whom is ascribed the most discerning eye for 


" the signs of future events " the soothsayers. They may 
know whether sickness, death, or impoverishment awaits a 
given person ; they may foretell his victory or defeat ; but 
which lot is the better for him, it is no more for the 
soothsayer to judge than any other man. 

Thus the knowledge of what is dangerous and what 
safe claims a place to itself, apart from and above all kinds 
of special knowledge. In passing, courage, which is not 
allowed to be identical with fearlessness, is denied to 
animals, even the stoutest-hearted among them, to children, 
and to the unintelligent who are undismayed by danger 
because they are unaware of its existence. The discussion 
now returns to the main point, and soon reaches its goal. 
Dangers prove to be identical with future evils. The know- 
ledge of them, and of their opposite goods, is now relieved 
of the limitation contained in the reference to the future, or 
rather, of all limitation of time whatever. Evils are evil 
and goods good, whether they are past, present, or future. 
Courage has thus been shown to be the same as the 
knowledge of goods and evils. Even this result does not 
remain unassailed. But the objections urged against it are 
not of a very searching order. The conclusion arrived at 
is certainly not marked out for rejection, but for subsequent 
completion. For that virtue in its essence and kernel is 
all of one kind, and identical with the knowledge of good 
and evil this, too, is Socratic doctrine, and is not disputed 
at the close of the dialogue. The only question asked is 
how this result may be squared with the view which had 
been adopted previously, namely, that courage is one part 
of virtue among other parts. First, we notice that this view 
was not derived from argument, but was simply borrowed 
from current everyday opinion. It might seem, therefore, 
that the above objection came to no more than a recognition 
of the fact that Socratism and the general voice were here 
in disagreement, and that the commonly accepted division 
of virtue into distinguishable parts must be abandoned. 
But such an hypothesis hardly does justice to Plato's inten- 
tion. The relation of the particular virtues to the wisdom 
which is their essence constituted a problem which was to 


occupy his powers of thought for a long time yet, and not 
to be finally solved till he came to write the " Republic." 
Even at this early period the notion of courage is not for 
him exhausted in the practice of wisdom in regard to the 
evils of life. An indication of this is supplied by a passing 
mention of " pleasures and desires," which latter have their 
appropriate place assigned to them afterwards, when the 
problem comes to be solved. Whether Plato had already 
found the solution when he wrote the " Laches," and only 
held it in reserve, or whether he was still struggling with the 
difficulties of the problem, may seem doubtful ; the second 
hypothesis, however, seems the more probable. On all 
other points Plato leaves the attentive reader, who can 
interpret his hints, in no doubt as to his meaning. Thus 
the conclusion, taken together with the preceding remarks 
on the unintelligent courage of animals, children, and fools, 
indicate clearly enough how he proposes to decide a ques- 
tion which was left unanswered at an earlier stage. It is 
not the greatness of the danger or the inadequacy of the 
means of defence, including serviceable kinds of special 
knowledge, that provides us with a measure of courage. In 
the quoted case of two soldiers who maintain their positions 
with equal endurance, the prize does not necessarily go to 
the one who is in the least favourable situation. For since 
coura'ge is nothing else than a wise appreciation of the 
goods of life, manifested principally in face of threatened 
evils, that prize belongs only to him who possesses such 
wisdom in the fuller measure ; of two soldiers, for example, 
that one will gain it who cherishes the clearer and surer 
conviction that death is preferable to a dishonoured life, to 
personal slavery, or the humiliation of his country. 

4. The dialogue " Charmides " is charmingly dramatic 
and full of life. Its theme is vufypoavini, a virtue for which 
it would be hard to find an adequate name in any modern 
language. Discretion, moderation, temperance, modesty, 
self-control each of these words contains a part, but none 
the whole of it. " Health of soul ' is the etymological 
meaning of the Greek word, and this has been aptly rendered 
in recent times by the German Heilsinnigkeit, or healthy- 


mindedness. But such a literal translation readily opens 
the door to misunderstandings. When we speak of healthy 
and wholesome natures, or the like, that which is dimly 
present to our minds by way of contrast is artificiality, lack 
of vigour and spontaneity, weakness or perversion of the 
primitive instincts and impulses of human nature. Not so 
with the Hellene. For him the great foe was excess ; and 
health of the soul meant for him, principally, the subjugation 
of exuberant force to the normal measure, to a standard 
determined mainly by the interests of society as a whole. 
This quality was the chief ingredient in Greek virtue or ex- 
cellence ; it was the part which most often took the place 
of the whole, as in Xenophon's saying about Socrates : 
" Wisdom and virtue he did not distinguish J: (p. 74). 
The concept fares much the same in the present little 
dialogue, which, possibly even more than the " Laches," is of 
the purely Socratic type. 

The " Charmides ' might almost be called a family 
conference, for the chief dramatis persona, next to Socrates, 
are two near relations of Plato. Socrates has returned 
home after the battle at Potidaea (September, 432), and 
immediately proceeds to the palaestra of Taureas, where 
he meets his friends. He takes his seat among them, but 
not before Chaerephon has greeted him with his customary 
enthusiasm, and demanded an account of his experiences. 
Critias is present, and bids Socrates heartily welcome. 
Soon Charmides is spied in the distance a youth of 
bewitching beauty, on whom all eyes are at once riveted 
as on a statue. He is the cousin and the ward of Critias. 
Chaerephon remarks that Charmides has so beautiful a 
figure that when his limbs are bared his face passes un- 
noticed, whereupon Socrates answers, " According to your 
description he must be altogether irresistible ; let us hope 
he is not lacking in a certain something else quite a trifle, 
I assure you." "And what might that be ? " "A soul as 
well developed as his body." Critias sings the praises of 
his young kinsman's philosophic mind and poetical talent, 
which latter, as Socrates remarks in reply, is the common 
inheritance of the family from Solon downwards. He now 


proposes to strip the soul of the beautiful youth. An 
occasion for addressing him is presented by a slight 
ailment from which Charmides has been suffering, a head- 
ache on rising, of which he has lately complained to 
Critias. On this pretext Charmides is bidden approach. 
His appearance produces a general commotion. All round 
the semicircle there is disturbance and confusion, due to 
the desire of each to have the new-comer for his neighbour, 
so that the two who sit at the ends are pushed from their 
places, and one of them sent sprawling. Socrates himself is 
disconcerted ; we must remember that the ancient Hellene 
was moved by the beauty of a boy in the same way as the 
modern man is by that of a girl or woman. Asked whether 
he knows a cure for headache, Socrates replies in the 
affirmative. The cure is a leaf ; but it cannot produce its 
effect without the aid of a charm. It belongs, furthermore, 
to the number of those remedies which act on more than 
one part of the body. He has but lately learnt the remedy 
at the camp in Thrace ; and the native physician who 
communicated it to him was of opinion that there are 
many maladies which the Greek physicians fail to subdue 
simply because they are ignorant that the soul needs 
treatment as well as the body. This Thracian, a disciple 
of Zalmoxis (who believed in immortality), affirmed that 
the well-being of the part depends on the health of the 
whole. The charms which act upon the soul are, according 
to him, salutary discourses producing crw^/ooauvr/. Socrates 
has sworn to the Thracian physician not to use his remedies 
except in conjunction ; and he cannot now undertake to 
treat the head until Charmides has submitted his soul to 
the process of "conjuration." Critias extols his young 
relation as possessing the virtue in question (which gives 
Socrates another occasion to sing the praises of the whole 
family, mother's side as well as father's), and Charmides is 
requested to say whether he is or is not endowed with 
the quality of Gufypoavv)). With modest blushes, which 
increase his beauty, he declares himself unable to answer 
the question. To say Yes would be self-praise ; to say 
No would be to set at naught the authority of his elder 


kinsman. It is accordingly proposed to make common 
search for the answer, and the way is thus paved for a 
discussion of awtypovuvi] itself. 

This discussion begins, naturally enough, with the 
narrowest and most external view of the subject. In the 
opinion of the young man, vufypoavvn consists in quietness 
and calmness of behaviour, shown in walking in the streets, 
in speaking, and in all other actions. But Socrates has no 
difficulty in proving that quickness is better than slowness 
in activities both of the body and of the soul, in reading 
and writing, in running and wrestling, in leaping and 
playing the lyre, as also in learning, comprehension, and 
discussion. Quietness or slowness, therefore, cannot be 
identical with the quality under consideration, which is to 
be regarded as something altogether excellent and praise- 
worthy. After some hesitation, Charmides makes what to 
Plato's thinking is evidently a step in advance by remarking 
that awfypoavvi] is something which causes men to feel and 
show shame, that it is therefore the same as shame or 
modesty. This time he is encountered with a poetical 
quotation which does duty for a complete induction the 
following line of the " Odyssey : " 

" Modesty, comrade unmeet for a man whom necessity pinches." 

The confession is thus wrung from him that modesty is not 
always advantageous, is not always a good thing, which 
ffuQpoavvii must be allowed to be. The confusion between 
good in the moral sense and good in the sense of mere 
utility ought not to trouble us, for, according to Socrattc- 
Platonic principles, that which is morally good is at the same 
time that which universally brings profit or happiness. 
Pressed to continue his efforts, Charmides produces a third 
definition a far more comprehensive one than the first two. 
According to this new definition, aw^povuvri is "doing 
one's own business." Once more Socrates drives him into a 
corner. The schoolmaster writes other people's names as 
well as his own, the schoolboy writes the names of enemies 
as well as of friends are they therefore deficient in 
? And could a state flourish in which it should 


be forbidden to weave garments, build houses, or make 
utensils for others ? An exchange of glances between 
Charmides and Critias, together with the growing un- 
easiness of the latter, leave no doubt that he is the real 
author of the definition, which Charmides began by 
describing as the work of some one else. Accordingly, 
the elder of the two cousins takes, as requested by Socrates, 
the place of the younger and weaker one in the conference, 
with which change the second and more difficult portion of 
the dialogue begins. 

At first Critias defends his definition by the aid of 
subtle distinctions between the concepts expressed by such 
words as " doing," " making," " producing." Socrates had 
already guessed that by the phrase " one's own business " 
the good was intended. But, even with this proviso, he 
misses the element of "knowledge in the definition. He 
asks Critias whether awfypoavvr) is or is not to be ascribed to 
those also who do good without knowing it ? How is it, 
for example, with the physician, who usually, but not 
invariably, benefits both his patient and himself by the 
cure he effects ? In the first case, the physician must be 
allowed a share in Gufypovvvi), in so far as he has done 
good. But, owing to his inability to distinguish between 
the abnormal cases and the exceptions which are their 
opposites, he himself never knows when he is exhibiting 
that quality and when not (compare the kindred argument 
in the " Laches "). Critias prefers to take back his words 
rather than admit that a man can have any part in 
aw(j)po(jvvii without self-knowledge. Thus knowledge comes 
to occupy the central position in the discussion. The virtue 
for which search is being made is declared to be a sort of 
knowledge ; more particularly it is contrasted with the 
special knowledge of the physician, the architect, and so 
forth, and affirmed to be " the science of other sciences and 
of itself," or, as it is presently put in somewhat altered form, 
" the knowledge of knowledge and of ignorance." 

The definition thus propounded by Critias is now made 
the subject of a close and prolonged examination, the result 
of which may be summarized as follows : Such a knowledge 


of knowledge is pronounced impossible. All knowledge, 
it is urged, equally with all sense-perception, must relate 
to an object, which must be other than itself. But the 
formula concerned is not therefore rejected unconditionally. 
A distinction is drawn between a knowing of that which 
one knows a reflex, as it were, of the primary knowledge, 
which adds nothing to it, and which, by a repetition of the 
process, may be multiplied ad infinitum and a knowledge 
of the fact that one knows or does not know a given 
thing. The latter is accepted as a possible element in 
knowledge, one which is favourable to all science by 
facilitating its acquisition and guarding its possession. 
Such recognition, indeed, could hardly be avoided in view 
of the important part played in the Socratic system by the 
distinction between real and apparent knowledge, by self- 
knowledge and criticism. But the content of (rw<^oo<7um/, 
or even of virtue in general, cannot be supplied by a species 
of knowledge which is equally applicable to all sciences. 
For the most exact possible distinction between knowledge 
and ignorance, together with the resulting elimination of 
all seeming knowledge and seeming art, would not be 
enough to make our life happy. If there were no sham 
physicians, commanders, sea-captains, and so on, then we 
should certainly be in the best of positions as regards the 
preservation of our health and our safety in war or on sea. 
Faultless quality, too, would be guaranteed in all pro- 
ductions of the handicrafts, and the predictions of sooth- 
sayers would never deceive us. But well-being and 
happiness would still be not quite within our grasp. To 
gain happiness we need a special science with a special 
subject-matter, and this the reader, with the " Laches " 
in his memory, has doubtless already guessed it this 
subject-matter is none other than good and evil. 
" Wretch ! "' cries Socrates, addressing Critias, " why have 
you been leading me round in a circle for so long ? ' This 
phrase alone (there is an exact parallel to it in the 
" Gorgias ") would be sufficient proof that we have here 
the true conclusion of the dialogue. Any doubt that may 
remain is removed by a comparison with the " Laches." 
VOL. II. x 


Just as in that dialogue, so here in the " Charmides," that 
which is placed in the brightest light is the art of life, 
which takes precedence over all the special arts subordinate 
to it, and is designated, as seems sufficiently clear, by the 
phrase, " Science of sciences." Still, this kind of know- 
ledge is not explicitly identified with vw^povvvri. Thus 
the dialogue runs its course, without, apparently, reaching 
any conclusion. Socrates roundly takes himself to task 
for his unskilfulness in the search, and expresses particular 
regret that he has not succeeded in curing Charmides. He 
comforts himself, however, with the hope that the virtuous 
youth will not need it, for he already possesses o-w^oo-iiv?;, 
and therefore happiness as well. Asked if it is so, 
Charmides can say neither Yes nor No. " How should 
I have knowledge of that thing, the essence of which even 
you profess your inability to determine ? But I do not 
altogether agree with you, Socrates, and I think I have 
very great need of your ' conjuration.' Nor is there any 
reason why I should not be subjected by you to the 
process day by day, until you are able to declare I have 
had enough." 

What is to be our verdict on the unsatisfactory con- 
clusion of the dialogue ? Is it to be set down entirely to 
the account of that first Platonic manner, in which the 
tangled threads of thought are not completely unravelled, 
but the reader is invited to take his share of mental labour ? 
Not entirely, in our opinion. One important point, at least, 
receives sufficient illumination. The essential ground of 
all virtue, the well-spring of happiness, is found in the 
knowledge of the aims of life, in insight into goods and 
evils and their relative values. Here the " Charmides }: ' is 
in exact agreement with its twin brother, the " Laches." 
And a further point of agreement is that in both dialogues 
the special virtue considered, awfypoavvn in one, courage in 
the other, does not stand out with the same clearness and 
certainty. It is true that hints are thrown out for our 
guidance, but they rather serve to point out the direction 
in which the author's thought is travelling, than to tell of 
a goal which he has already reached. From this point of 


view the definition of <roj0/ooowq, as "doing one's own busi- 
ness/' is not a little significant. For, in the " Republic " 
the highest importance is attached to the principle of the 
division of labour, the avoidance of all trespass on the 
rights and duties of others. Indeed, this principle is, in 
that later work, somewhat violently identified with the 
essence of justice. The further fact that the economic 
aspect of this same principle is touched upon in both 
dialogues makes their agreement still less like a chance 
coincidence. Lastly, the kernel of awfypovvvi], which, in 
Plato's mind at least is closely akin to justice, is seen in 
the " Republic ' to be the right delimitation of different 
spheres of activity the due co-ordination, namely, of 
those parts of the soul which are respectively fitted for 
obedience and command. The conjecture can hardly be 
resisted that thoughts of this type had already begun to 
dawn upon Plato's mind when he wrote the " Charmides," 
but that they had not yet acquired the full clearness of 

One remark more before we take our leave of this 
graceful dialogue. If we have used the words " knowledge," 
"science," "art," almost without distinction, we have but faith- 
fully followed the example of our original. All knowledge 
is here regarded as the foundation upon which rests some 
kind of practice, the exercise of some art, though it is 
quite true that within this circle of ideas a distinction is 
occasionally recognized between the productive and the 
unproductive arts. The arts, for example, of arithmetic 
and land-surveying are contrasted, in this point, with the 
arts of the architect and the weaver. 





I. THE summit and crown of this period of Plato's creative 
activity is to be found in the " Protagoras." In this work 
he exhibits the full measure of his literary powers. He 
overflows with humour, raillery, and exuberant invention. 
His dramatic and descriptive talent puts forth its most 
exquisite flowers. A crowded canvas is spread before our 
eyes, but the picture, with all its diversity, is held as in a 
frame by the strict unity of the thought. 

The stage-setting of this dialogue, and not a few of its 
details, have already been treated by us on earlier occasions 
(Vol. I. 389, 438, sqq., 586). It i's enough for us here to 
trace the march of thought and to discuss the probable 
motive of the work. Protagoras has promised the young 
Hippocrates, who has been introduced to him by Socrates 
in the house of Callias, instruction in morals and politics ; 
the discussion accordingly begins with the question whether 
such instruction is possible, or, in other words, whether 
virtue can be taught. Socrates doubts that possibility, and 
supports his doubts by two arguments. The Athenians, 
whom he "holds wise, as do all other Greeks," evidently 
do not believe that political virtue can be taught, and is 
the object of special professional knowledge. For in all 
those departments where they acknowledge such skill and 
trained experts who possess it, these experts alone have 
their ear and confidence ; naval architects, for example, 
in ship-construction. In politics, on the other hand, the 


Athenians draw no such distinctions ; the shoemaker and 
the smith, the shopkeeper and the carpenter, all, in short, 
rich, poor, noble, or mean, are equally welcome to them as 
counsellors ; no one is required to furnish proof of education 
or training. Again, their most prominent statesmen, who 
procure for their own sons the most careful instruction in 
other matters, do not pass on to them their own special 
wisdom, either directly or through the medium of profes- 
sional teachers ; on the contrary, they let them grow up 
almost wild, as is illustrated by examples taken from the 
family of Pericles. Any one who has the least familiarity 
with the views of Socrates will see at once that neither 
the doubts nor the reasons are seriously meant. Socrates 
did not really hold the Athenians wise, for he con- 
tinually attacked their public conduct ; nor did their 
statesmen appear to him to be models of exalted intelli- 
gence. It was, indeed, for him matter of perpetual and 
indignant complaint that men in general, his own country- 
men among them, recognized the need of systematic 
knowledge and professional training only in the smaller 
details of life, and not in their highest concerns. The 
objections here put in his mouth by Plato serve but to 
start a discussion which is intended to illustrate two things : 
the helplessness of even the greatest celebrity of the day 
when called on to face cross-examination by Socrates ; and, 
secondly, the inner connexion of the fundamental Socratic 
doctrines. Or perhaps we should rather combine the two, 
and speak of the contrast which Socratism, rigidly con- 
sistent, and therefore dialectically triumphant, presents to 
the contradictions of those current views on life of which 
the Sophists are the spokesmen and interpreters. 

Protagoras sets himself to remove the doubts which 
have been raised, and for this purpose he first of all recites 
a myth and then delivers a speech of some length. These 
specimens of magnificent and impetuous oratory are master- 
pieces of Platonic art. Here, as elsewhere in his works, 
Plato employs a species of caricature which is common to 
him and the comic poet Aristophanes. He rivals or out- 
bids the burlesqued author in his own peculiar excellences, 


and at the same time gives great prominence to his defects, 
which he doubtless exaggerates. This refined species 
of caricature achieves two results instead of one. The 
original suffers both eclipse and disparagement, while 
in the double process the second part is made more 
effective by the first. For the real or apparent attempt to 
do justice by dispensing light as well as shadow lulls the 
suspicions of the reader and disarms criticism. In the 
present case the note of satire is so unobtrusive that even 
eminent scholars of the present day have allowed them- 
selves to be deceived. George Grote says in round terms 
of the speech here put in the mouth of Protagoras, which 
he takes quite seriously, that he considers it " one of the 
best passages in Plato's works." The truth is that we 
have here a framework of confused and contradictory 
thought wrapped up in a covering of brilliant rhetoric, full 
of spirit and life. Both framework and covering, it is true, 
are Plato's own work, and the exact amount of resemblance 
between the original and the caricature is impossible to 

Stripped of its attractive but irrelevant accompani- 
ments, and of all its rhetorical tinsel, the train of thought 
allotted to Protagoras is as follows : After the foundation 
of human society, it was ordained by Zeus that Hermes 
should distribute " justice and reverence " among all men. 
For this reason the Athenians, like others, rightly assume 
that every one has his share in political virtue. The cor- 
rectness of this assumption is further evinced by the cir- 
cumstance that when any one lacks (!) justice or any other 
part of political virtue, the world does not expect him to 
confess it, these qualities being regarded as indispensable. 
" And they say that all men ought to profess to be honest, 
whether they are so or not." Soon there follows another 
contradiction. His reference to a command of the Supreme 
God can only be a mythological expression of the assump- 
tion that men possess an instinctive or innate moral sense, 
from which fact it follows that the Athenians " rightly ): 
believe every man to possess his share of virtue. And yet 
Protagoras immediately undertakes to " prove ' that the 


Athenians do not regard political virtue as a spontaneous 
gift of Nature, but as something to be acquired by practice 
and instruction. Otherwise they would have pitied, instead 
of punishing, the backward in virtue, just as they pity those 
whom Nature has treated shabbily in other respects. For 
punishment is meant to deter, and is inflicted for the sake 
of improvement or education. 

Protagoras now addresses himself to the second objec- 
tion raised by Socrates, that is, to the question why 
" superior men " do not impart their superiority to their 
sons. He launches out, first of all, into an eloquent de- 
scription of the perversity with which these eminent men 
would be chargeable, if it were really true that, while ex- 
pending the utmost care on their children's education in 
comparatively minor matters, they neglect those others on 
which their weal and woe, their life and death, depend. 
But however " wonderful ' this inconsistency may be, 
Plato and Socrates none the less believed it to be a reality, 
and their pained surprise at it and similar inconsistencies 
was the main motive of their whole ethical thought. In 
the present passage the place of an explanation is taken 
by a lively and widely discursive description of the in- 
fluence in the direction of morality which is exercised at all 
stages of life and from all sides on every member of a civic 
society. At the same time, no small efficiency is ascribed 
to school-instruction, in connexion with which the follow- 
ing remark occurs : " And this is done by those who can do 
most ; now those who can do most are the rich, and their 
sons begin school at the earliest age and leave it at the 
latest." One is moved to ask, with some surprise, whether 
the level of wealth and the level of morality do in reality 
generally agree. The task of explaining the abnormal 
fact that many good men have bad sons is not ap- 
proached till late in the speech, and then, as it would seem, 
with some little reluctance. The solution finally proposed 
is as follows : When so much is done, by so many people, 
for so long time together, for the development of a particular 
quality, the amount finally produced depends, not on the 
quantity of instruction received, but on natural aptitude 


alone. If, for example, flute-playing had the same im- 
portance for life in a community as justice has ; if, in 
consequence, there were, an equally general and per- 
sistent competition in making men good flute-players ; 
then we should not find the sons of the best musicians 
becoming the best in their turn, but simply those 
whose gift for music was the greatest. It is as clear as 
daylight that this argument leaves practically no room for 
teachers of morality and their work. Naturally Prota- 
goras does not accept a conclusion so disastrous for a pro- 
fessional teacher of virtue. But he escapes it, not by any 
argument drawn from the nature of the case, but by a full- 
sounding phrase : " If there be any of us who can surpass 
the rest, by however little, in the promotion of virtue, that 
is something to be thankful for. I myself, as I believe, am 
such a man, and I contribute more than others towards 
. . ." and so on. 

At last the torrent of sonorous rhetoric ceases to flow, 
and Protagoras is " really silent." Socrates, who has been 
listening " like one bewitched," and now only recovers his 
composure by degrees, expresses himself as all but satis- 
fied. There is only one small matter which still troubles 
him observe the thin end of the wedge. Protagoras has 
lumped together " reverence and justice ' in speaking of 
their distribution by Hermes, and in other parts of his 
speech he has associated justice with piety and other 
virtues. Socrates would now like to know his opinion on 
the unity of virtue. Are the different parts of virtue 
related to each other as the different parts eyes, nose, 
mouth of a face ? Or are they like the parts of a lump 
of gold ? In other words, are they homogeneous or hete- 
rogeneous ? Can they be possessed separately ? or does a 
man acquire all parts simultaneously as soon as he becomes 
master of one ? The latter, be it observed, is the Socratic 
view ; it is only because all virtue consists in wisdom 
(and is therefore one) that it can be taught. Plato 
takes no little pleasure in making Protagoras maintain 
the possibility of teaching virtue, while denying the 
grounds on which that possibility rests. For the sophist 


answers, as one who is no follower of Socrates must 
answer ; he takes his stand on the common judgment 
which knows nothing of that unity of all virtue. On the 
contrary, there are, in his opinion, " many who are brave 
but unjust, and many others who are just but not wise." 

The arguments which Socrates opposes to this view 
are at first surprisingly weak. He asks whether justice is 
just ; and Protagoras dares not say No, lest he should be 
obliged to say it is unjust. A precisely similar question 
is asked about piety, and is answered in a similar manner. 
Socrates continues his questions ; and, through fear of 
being obliged to say that justice is impious or piety unjust, 
Protagoras is led to affirm the piety of justice and justice 
of piety. The two virtues thus appear to be joined by 
a bond which excludes the possibility of their being 
essentially different. Every one must at least feel the 
fallacious character of the argument. To bring it out 
clearly, we need only reflect that "pious" and "just' are 
predicates which cannot be affirmed, in any intelligible 
sense, of every subject. Even among human beings there 
are some to whom they are not applicable those, for 
example, who are not responsible for their actions ; while 
their application is still more restricted when we come 
to existences in general, and most of all in the case of 
abstractions such as the virtues. The epithets " pious " and 
"just' are attached, in the first place, to particular dis- 
positions of human minds, then to the actions which spring 
from these dispositions, to the persons who possess them, 
and, lastly, to modes of action and feeling. There is as 
little sense in saying that justice is just or piety pious 
as there is in saying that roundness is round or redness 
red. The denial of such an assertion by no means implies 
that we assign the predicate "unjust " to justice, or that of 
" impious " to piety, any more than in refusing the predicate 
"just" to an infant or a tree, a flower or a stone, we mean 
to affirm that any one of them is unjust. Of course, men 
have always been only too ready to smuggle into the simple 
denial of a statement the affirmation of its opposite to 
pass lightly from the contradictory negative to that which 


is merely contrary. Again, it is anything but obvious that 
the predicate "pious" belongs to justice, or vice versa. In 
fact, to speak of piety as just seems absolutely meaningless. 
And if a somewhat lax use of the concept " piety " enables 
the believer in God to call justice pious, in the sense of 
being pleasing to God, this is not enough to justify even 
the identification of justice with God-pleasing, not to speak 
of anything more. 

The second fallacy which we have to note in this con- 
nexion is of a still more rudimentary character. The 
essential sameness of wisdom and cno^poavvr] is supposed 
to be evinced by the fact that the opposites of " folly ' 
both in the intellectual and in the moral sense, are 
expressed by a single Greek word dtypocrvvri. The proof 
is clinched by an appeal to the axiom that no concept can 
have more than one opposite. It is needless to say that 
in this passage the want of sharp discrimination between 
the different meanings of a word has produced a proof 
which falls to the ground as soon as we realize the 
ambiguity. Possibly Plato might have learnt from Prodicus 
the art of making such useful distinctions, if he had regarded 
the "wisdom" of that teacher with a little less contempt. 
Here, for all his genius, he is guilty of precisely that fallacy 
which is called " equivocation " in the technical language of 
logic. We admit that Plato now and then uses weak and 
even fallacious arguments consciously ; but of this practice, 
in our judgment, the present passage is not an instance. 
For, in what follows, there is no hint by which the reader 
might be warned either that a fallacy has been employed 
in sport, or that arguments of slender weight have been 
stationed, like sharpshooters, in advance of more serious 
proofs. No such hint, we say, is offered. On the contrary, 
the perplexity of Protagoras is represented as fully justified, 
and marks the entrance of the dialogue upon its critical 

2. Pressed hard in dialectic, Protagoras at last takes 
refuge in the pleasant fields of poetry. That is to say, he 
ceases to give short and precise answers ; he loses himself 
in digressions, and threatens to relapse into that eloquence 


by which Socrates had once before been reminded of the 
long-sustained note given out by metal vessels in response 
to a short, sharp blow. Socrates now declares himself 
unable to retain his opponent's answers in his memory. 
He is forgetful, he says, and must beg Protagoras to take 
account of his infirmity. The stronger must always adapt 
himself to the weaker, if the two are to work in harness. 
If he and Crison of Himera, the swiftest runner of the day, 
were required to run in step together, that could only be 
done by Crison reducing his speed, not by the opposite 
method. The dialogue, and with it the feast of reason 
which the onlookers are enjoying, threatens to come to an 
untimely end. Hereupon Callias, in whose house the scene 
is laid, Critias, and Alcibiades, lastly also Prodicus and 
Hippias, offer their mediation ; and the occasion is taken 
to sketch the interveners in a few rapid strokes, in which 
the two sophists are somewhat severely caricatured. At 
length an exchange of roles is agreed upon : Protagoras 
is to ask questions, and Socrates is to answer them. The 
former is thus enabled to leave the thorny field of ethical 
concepts, and turn his attention to the interpretation and 
criticism of poetry an exercise which he regards as " the 
principal part of education." With a touch of that school- 
masterly spirit which we have already noticed in him (cf. 
Vol. I. pp. 441, sqq., 458), he proposes to examine some 
passages from a poem of Simonides as to their " correct- 
ness " or " incorrectness." 

What follows may be described, in a phrase coined by 
Plato elsewhere, as a " laborious pastime." By an abuse 
of ingenuity, one speaker finds stumbling-blocks in the 
poem under discussion, and the other endeavours to remove 
them by subtle quibblings. Simonides had, in the first 
place, pronounced it " hard " for any one "to become truly 
good, four-square in hand and foot and mind, a work of 
faultless art." And yet, further on in the same poem, he 
had spoken of the saying of Pittacus, " It is hard to be 
good," as inadequate, on the ground that " only a god can 
have part in such a privilege," while human character is 
ever the plaything of fate. He therefore renounces all 


pursuit of " unattainable, spotless perfection," and professes 
himself ready to " love and honour ' every one " who 
never willingly does anything base ; but against Necessity 
the gods themselves fight in vain." The case is much as 
if the poet, improving upon himself, had corrected his first 
assertion : " It is hard to be good," by exclaiming, " But 
what am I saying ? It is not hard ; it is a sheer impossi- 
bility to reach so high a goal." 

Plato, speaking through the mouth of Socrates, now 
engages in what was evidently at that time a favourite 
intellectual pastime. In doing so he employs, as earlier in 
the dialogue, that style of caricature in which the original 
is outshone. Here the butt is not so much Protagoras, 
whose criticism of poetry was rather marked by a leaning 
towards pedantry, as Hippias and Prodicus. The explana- 
tion proposed by Socrates is violent, linguistically speaking, 
in the highest degree ; moreover, Plato is perfectly well 
aware that it is so. Accordingly, to provide against that 
attempt being taken seriously, he makes Socrates begin 
with the pleasant fiction that the Cretans and Spartans, 
who of all Greeks were the most hostile to culture and 
innovation, were in reality the sophists' warmest friends, 
but that the sophists of those countries kept their wisdom 
concealed. Protagoras, in the beginning of the dialogue, 
had said much the same of his predecessors, as he called 
them Homer, Hesiod, Orpheus, and the others. Socrates 
further explains that the Lacedaemonians instituted their 
" expulsions of aliens " for no other purpose than that they 
might enjoy the society of the sophists undisturbed. And 
there are other jests of the same kind. Thus the prologue 
warns us to expect a burlesque, and there is an epilogue 
which expresses with unvarnished plainness the view that 
all such virtuosity is arbitrary and sterile. Contradictory 
explanations, he says, can be maintained with equal show 
of reason, but true certainty can never be reached, for 
it is impossible to go to the poets themselves and obtain 
authoritative decisions. The main purpose of this inter- 
lude, which is doubtless also intended for the recreation 
and entertainment of the reader, is obvious enough, 


and may be set out as follows : Socrates extracts out of 
the poem by Simonides a maxim to the effect that 
" it is hard to become good ; impossible to remain so per- 
manently." But he proceeds as though his own original, 
and even paradoxical, thesis, " No man errs of his own 
free will," were the common property of " all wise men," 
and, among them, of the Cean poet, who " was not so un- 
educated as to believe " that any one ever did evil volun- 
tarily. Now, the two thoughts are in the most glaring 
contradiction with each other. For to say that no one errs 
voluntarily is merely to give expression to the view that 
every fault is the result of an error, and that all right-doing 
is the consequence of correct thinking. But the maxim 
attributed to Simonides, according to which virtue is hard 
to gain and impossible to keep, is the exact opposite to the 
theory of Socrates ; for the knowledge which he regarded as 
the foundation of all virtue might be hard of acquisition, 
but once gained, could never be lost. The Socratic 
doctrine that the intellect alone determines action leads, 
by a necessary development, to the proposition, "Virtue 
rests on knowledge ; it can, therefore, be taught, but cannot 
be lost." With this thesis there is here conjoined, indirectly, 
the antithesis, " Virtue can be lost ; it cannot therefore be 
taught, and hence does not rest on knowledge." Plato 
represents the great sophist and his famous companions as 
receiving this self-contradictory explanation with hearty 
approval, and thus once more throws into relief the con- 
fusion and inconsistency of thought which marked the most 
eminent writers and teachers of the age, and from which 
Socrates alone was free. Once more, too, the aim of 
exalting Socrates above all the notabilities of the day is 
accompanied by another and nobler aim that of present- 
ing the Socratic ethics as a complete and well-rounded 

But Plato is not satisfied with hints, such as those only 
can understand who are familiar with the spirit of Socratism. 
The progress of the dialogue supplies him with an occasion 
to exhibit the inner connexion of those doctrines in a clearer 
light. For Socrates resumes the discussion on the unity of 


virtue as soon as Protagoras, pacified by a few expressions 
of respect, has reconciled himself once more to the part of 
answerer. He begins with the admission that there is a 
certain affinity between the other parts of virtue, but not 
between them and courage. There is no lack, he contends, 
of examples which show that a man may be unintelligent, 
unjust, dissolute, irreligious, and yet at the same time 
courageous. Socrates sets about proving that even courage 
real courage, as distinguished from mere recklessness 
is coupled with knowledge. The demonstration, however, 
proceeds, in the first instance, by the defective method 
already known to us from the " Laches," the unsatisfactory 
character of which is here again indicated by Plato in the 
clearest possible manner. The knowledge which is first 
spoken of is not that of ends, but that of means. It is 
contended that the most skillful diver, horseman, or foot- 
soldier is always also the most courageous. It is only the 
accompanying knowledge that makes their confidence 
something praiseworthy, constitutes it the virtue which we 
name courage. To this argument Plato represents Prota- 
goras as answering, with equal point and seriousness, that 
such a union of confidence and knowledge certainly does 
increase efficiency, but only in the same way as does the 
combination of strength and knowledge which is possessed, 
for example, by the trained wrestler. But just as the 
second instance gives us no right to identify knowledge 
with bodily strength, no more does the first justify us in 
regarding it as the same as confidence, or the highest stage 
of confidence courage. In this part of the discussion 
Protagoras displays a somewhat surprising degree of logical 
training. He knows that not every judgment can be con- 
verted simpliciter ; that the proposition, " The courageous 
are confident," cannot without more ado be converted into 
"The confident are courageous." (Simple conversion is 
illegitimate where the subject has a narrower extension than 
the predicate ; thus : " All negroes are men," but not " All 
men are negroes.") One might almost conjecture that, 
possibly in his " Antilogies," the sophist had given expres- 
sion to some of the elementary truths of logic, and that 


Plato has here worked with a twofold object. He desires 
both to correct, through the mouth of Protagoras, the above- 
mentioned misapprehension of Socrates' doctrine of the 
unity of wisdom and courage a misapprehension which 
seems to have originated in the circle of disciples and at 
the same time to assign to its source, in broadly allusive 
style, a species of wisdom of whose profundity he had no 
very great opinion. 

At this point the problem is dropped, to reappear 
presently in a more fundamental shape. The dialogue 
enters on its final phase, in which Socrates combats the 
opinion of " the many " that man errs voluntarily ; that he 
knows the good, but does not do it because he is over- 
powered by pleasure or other emotions (such as anger, fear, 
love, sorrow). Socrates proposes to prove the untenable 
character of the ordinary view and to establish the actual 
supremacy of the intellect. Protagoras cordially assents. 
The prospect is held out that in the course of the inquiry 
the relation of courage to the other parts of virtue will 
become plain. The discussion takes the form of a con- 
versation with the many. Their assumption that a man 
often knows evil as evil and yet does it, is characterized as 
ridiculous. Every one this is the gist of the proof 
desires what is best for himself ; he further identifies good 
with pleasure, evil with pain, and accordingly strives always 
after a maximum of pleasure and a minimum of pain ; he 
therefore avoids pleasure only when it is the source of 
still greater pain, and only chooses pain when a greater 
amount of pleasure results from it. The being overcome 
by pleasures means in reality nothing else than that the 
smaller but nearer pleasure is preferred to the greater and 
more remote, the reason of which preference is that near- 
ness magnifies goods to the mind just as it does objects to 
the eye. In such cases our judgment is deceived. Errors 
of this kind are avoided by him who knows how to count, 
to measure, to weigh correctly in questions of pleasure and 
pain. The right conduct of life is thus reduced in the last 
resort to a species of calculus, or mensuration, that is, to 
some kind of wisdom or knowledge. Its opposite, on the 


other hand, the supposed condition of being overcome by 
pleasure or emotion, turns out, now the mask is stripped 
from it, to be nothing but ignorance, and indeed the 
greatest and most fatal ignorance of all. 

Here follows the application to the special case of 
courage. If " it is not in human nature ' to go in quest 
of evils which one has recognized as such, but, at the most, 
to choose the lesser of two evils when there is no other 
escape, then the common conception of courage and 
cowardice cannot be right. It is said, possibly, that 
cowards go where there is "safety," the courageous where 
there is " danger." But if danger is the same thing as an 
evil in prospect, how can such a statement be accorded with 
the conviction, which has just forced itself upon us, that no 
one will ever choose an evil which he knows to be such ? 
How is it, for example, with war ? Is it noble or base to 
go to battle ? If it is noble or praiseworthy, as is conceded, 
then it must necessarily be also good or useful. If, then, 
cowards avoid going to battle, which is something noble 
and good, there can be no other reason than their ignorance, 
that is as we may add in completion their defective 
knowledge of the relative values of goods such as freedom 
and life (compare our discussion of the " Laches "). The 
opposite of cowardice can, therefore, be only wisdom or 
true knowlege. Thus courage, to which Protagoras wished 
to assign a place apart, is triumphantly reduced to wisdom, 
like the other virtues. 

Towards the close of the dialogue Socrates declares 
that throughout the discussion his sole aim has been to 
discover what virtue really is, and what is the truth about 
it. The result arrived at is not stated with dogmatic pre- 
cision, but its nature is indicated clearly enough. Socrates 
first of all expresses his surprise at the exchange of roles 
which has been effected between himself and Protagoras. 
He himself had begun by denying that virtue could be 
taught ; now, however, he has reduced all the parts of it 
to knowledge, after which step the proof that it can be 
taught first begins to be feasible. For if virtue were 
something different from knowledge, as Protagoras has 


been endeavouring to show, it is clear that the teaching 
of it would be an impossibility. But now that virtue has 
been revealed as knowledge, it would be strange if it could 
not be taught. That it cannot, is a thesis which ought 
really to be maintained by Protagoras, who began by 
assuming that it can, while afterwards he did his best 
to represent it as anything else rather than a kind of 
knowledge. Both have failed in point of forethought ; 
Epimetheus (afterthought) has overthrown them both ; and 
thus the dialogue takes a conciliatory turn with a grace- 
fully humorous reminiscence of the sophist's myth. The 
adversaries part as good friends who hope to meet again 
and help each other in the pursuit of truth. Plato evidently 
regards as complete the dialectic reverse suffered by the 
representative of ordinary views of life and the world, 
and he exploits, for the purpose of commending Socratic 
doctrine, such reputation as Protagoras still enjoyed at 
the moment of writing. For he makes him predict the 
future renown of his opponent, to whose earnestness and 
skill he accords " ungrudging " and cordial praise. 

3. On the purpose of the dialogue little remains to be 
said. It is partly concerned with the dialectic superiority 
of Socrates, but at the same time, as we have already had 
occasion to observe, the inner connexions of his teaching 
are not unregarded. The initiated are helped to a clearer 
perception of them ; while the uninitiated are encouraged to 
attempt, under Plato's guidance, the task of arranging, in a 
coherent and articulate system, what is presented to them 
in the form of isolated and dispersed fragments of doctrine. 
In this aspect the " Protagoras " reminds us of the carmina 
fracta, that is, disjointed portions of verse, the piecing 
together of which used to be a favourite school-exercise, 
or of the problem presented by an ancient ruin to the 
archaeologist who desires to restore the dislocated members 
of the edifice to their original situations. The more 
attentive reader, that is to say, is introduced to a train of 
thought of which the successive stages, already in part 
indicated by us, may be summarized as follows : Virtue 
is inalienable because it can be taught ; it possesses this 


capacity of being taught, on the one hand, and organic 
unity on the other, because it rests entirely on knowledge ; 
it rests solely and entirely on knowledge here we have 
the cardinal thought, the keystone of the arch because 
the noble or praiseworthy, which forms its content, is at the 
same time the good or useful, which the agent, so far as he 
is not the victim of error, always chooses and prefers, 
because it is, in the last resort, that which brings pleasure 
to himself. 

These words, " in the last resort," may perhaps give 
pause, and rightly so, to more than one reflecting reader of 
these pages. The identification of virtue with happiness 
is an heirloom from Socrates which continually recurs in 
Plato's works. Less frequent, but by no means un- 
exampled, is the reduction of happiness to pleasurable 
sensations. Hence arises the possibility of constructing a 
bridge between the content of virtue and that of pleasure. 
But such a work of conciliation requires as a basis the 
proof, either that virtue, whatever be the motive for which 
it is sought, always yields the greatest pleasure, or that the 
pursuit of the greatest possible amount of pleasure can 
only be successful when it follows the paths of virtue. 
What strikes us in the present passage is not merely that 
no such demonstration is supplied, but that the necessity 
of one is not so much as hinted at. But it would only 
make matters worse to dismiss the argument as not 
seriously meant, intimately connected as it is with such 
characteristic and far-reaching articles of the Socratic and 
Platonic faith as the involuntariness of all error and the 
foundation of all right-doing on knowledge. There is, 
however, a parallel passage which illuminates the point 
at issue and ends our perplexity. 

The reader of the Platonic " Laws " is reminded of the 
" Protagoras ' by a passage in the fifth book, and that in a 
manner which may well cause him surprise and some little 
emotion. It is affecting to observe how the thinker, after 
the lapse of half a century, is still engaged, with unabated 
intensity of devotion, upon the same problems which 
occupied his youth. Here we meet once more with the 


same hedonistic point of view, as we may shortly term it ; 
and the manner of its expression closely resembles that 
employed at the close of the " Protagoras." But this time 
the omission which we noticed before does not recur; there is 
present also a background of idealism, the place of which, 
in the " Protagoras," is taken by a reservation by the ex- 
pression, that is to say, of a doubt as to whether pain and 
pleasure do really exhaust the whole of what we mean by 
good and evil. At this stage, in the work of his old age, 
Plato turns abruptly away from ideals of life and things 
divine, with the words, " But we have not yet spoken of 
these things from the human standpoint. This, however, 
we must now do, for it is to men, not gods, that we address 
ourselves. By human concerns we mean pleasures and 
pains and the desires connected with them ; to these things 
all mortal creatures cleave with passionate striving." There 
follows, just as in the earlier work, the exposition of a 
species of moral mensuration or arithmetic. Pleasures and 
pains are compared in respect of their "number, extent, 
and intensity. We choose the lesser pain, if coupled with 
a greater pleasure, but not the lesser pleasure, if coupled 
with a greater pain ; " this time, too, account is taken of the 
" neutral state, which we are very willing to choose instead 
of pain, but not instead of pleasure." Up to this point, 
Plato's procedure is exactly the same in both works. He 
states the facts of human nature ; he points out conditions 
which are valid for all volition without exception note the 
frequent and strongly emphatic use, in the " Protagoras ' : 
as well as the " Laws," of the word " men." But while no 
attempt is made, in the closing portion of the first-named 
dialogue, to set in a clear light the connexion between the 
natural foundation of morality and the system of precepts 
built upon it, this omission is repaired in the " Laws." A 
line of argument is here entered upon, the express purpose 
of which is to prove that " the noblest life wins for us also 
that prize on which all our hearts are set the prepon- 
derance of joys over sorrows." There is a detailed expo- 
sition of the advantages which " the reasonable, courageous, 
temperate, and healthy life ' has over the life which is 


" unreasonable, cowardly, dissolute, and diseased." Finally, 
the life which is guided by virtue is praised as the one 
which is " happier both in detail and in gross." The 
absence of this intermediary matter from the " Protagoras ): 
may perhaps be partly set to the account of the author's 
youth, and his as yet incomplete mastery of his craft. 
Partly, also, our surprise on this head is lost in a more 
general cause for wonder. How is it, we may ask, that in 
the v\ hole series of his youthful works, Plato is so niggardly 
with sentiment and emotion, and, even in passages where 
he touches upon the highest human concerns, gives us only 
cold outlines, to which we must add the colouring ourselves ? 
He speaks to us again and again of the " good," but seldom 
or never tells us what that is in which the good consists. 
In treating of the " Laches " we thought it necessary to 
repair this omission. We spoke of the advantages of 
freedom over slavery, of the saving one's country over the 
permitting its destruction, of honour over dishonour. In so 
doing we believe we rightly supplemented Plato's thought. 
But the deficiency was there to be supplemented. In these 
dialogues he avoids, as if of set purpose, all that goes 
beyond the discussion of concepts. Can it be that the 
quondam poet guards himself with jealous care from all 
fervour of emotion as the greatest danger to which an 
incipient philosopher is exposed ? Or is it repugnant to the 
youth to assume the solemn mien of the ethical preacher ? 
Or, lastly, has the pupil resolved to tread nowhere but in 
the footsteps of his master, whose province was the criticism 
of concepts and the exposure of fallacies ? Is it for this 
reason that he so carefully shuns all exhortation at once 
the domain and badge of those sophists from whom he is 
anxious to distinguish himself? Did he regard dialectic 
subtlety as something superior and refined (KOJU^OV), at the 
same time disdaining the exhortatory style as common- 
place and a little vulgar (^o^n/cov)? Probably it was a 
mixture of all these motives that stamped the firstfruits of 
Plato's muse with their character of reserve a quality no- 
where more marked than in the closing portion of the " Pro- 
tagoras," \\here such words as " happiness," "blessedness," 


and all others of high and solemn sound will be sought 
for in vain. 

This attitude of reserve was not to be maintained or 
long. It soon disappeared, and for ever. At the same 
time, that sunny light-heartedness, by which the first series 
of Plato's works is irradiated, suffered at least temporary 
eclipse. The strains that now meet our ear are deeper, 
stronger, and more moving than those we have hitherto 
heard. We stand at the portal of the magnificent edifice 
named " Gorgias." 



I. THE scenery of the " Gorgias ' is marked by the same 
indefiniteness of outline as that of the " Hippias." The 
Sicilian rhetorician, like the Elian teacher of wisdom, has 
just been delivering an address to a numerous auditory in 
some place of public resort probably in the hall of a 
gymnasium. Socrates arrives late, accompanied by his faith- 
ful Chaerephon. He desires to put a question to Gorgias, 
which the latter can the less decline to answer as he has a 
moment ago publicly announced his readiness to reply to 
every questioner. 

The point at issue is nothing less than the nature and 
essence of Rhetoric. Before long a dialogue is in progress, 
and in the course of it Socrates displays his usual acumen 
and subtlety, while the rhetorician appears as a genuine lover 
of truth, to whose nature all disputatiousness is foreign. 
After the opening sentences, the rhetorician Polus of 
Agrigentum, a young man and full of youthful enthusiasm, 
takes upon himself to enter the lists in place of the master, 
who is already tired. He embarks upon a eulogy of his 
art ; and his speech, though short, provokes amusement by 
its strongly marked Gorgianic style. But as it is the 
nature of rhetoric, not its value, which is in question, 
Gorgias himself, at the request of Socrates, re-enters the 
discussion which we reproduce, with occasional comments. 
The first and most general definitions "knowledge of 
discourse," " artificer of persuasion" having proved too 
comprehensive, a process of narrowing down begins, which 


leads to the result that rhetoric is the art of persuasion, as 
exercised in law-courts and popular assemblies, in respect of 
questions touching' justice and injustice as well as others. A 
distinction is then drawn between two kinds of persuasion : 
one of them produces belief without knowledge ; the other 
produces knowledge as well. It is agreed that the orator 
does not impart knowledge in the true sense of the word, 
for the reason that it is a sheer impossibility to enlighten a 
mass-meeting on such great subjects as justice and injustice, 
in a short space of time. (No notice is here taken of the 
distinction between the exposition of a complete system 
of law, whether positive or ideal, and that application of 
established legal maxims to particular cases which is com- 
mon in legal practice, and is not necessarily a lengthy 
process.) It is pointed out, next, that it is the " orators," 
Themistocles and Pericles, for example, and not the "master 
workmen," with their special knowledge, who have decided, 
and still decide, such matters as the building of fortifica- 
tions or the construction of docks. (Here the distinction is 
neglected between matters of principle, such as depend on 
political considerations, and matters of detail ; nor is any 
notice taken of the fact that Themistocles and Pericles were 
not mere orators, but possessed a most competent knowledge 
of statecraft.) Gorgias now boasts of the great influence 
which the power of speech enables him to exercise over 
specialists of all kinds and over their clients : for example, 
he is sometimes more successful than his brother Herodicus 
in prevailing upon the latter's patients to follow the 
directions of their physician. From all this the conclusion 
is drawn that the orator, without possessing knowledge^ 
appears to the ignorant to possess it. In this connexion the 
question is asked whether the ability to dispense with 
knowledge, which is thus claimed for the orator, extends to 
questions touching the just and the unjust. Gorgias will 
not admit this for a moment. The pupil who has not 
acquired such knowledge from previous instruction receives 
it from him, the teacher ; and in fact the school of rhetoric 
was, in that period, regarded as a place of general educa- 
tion, and of preparation for public life. Socrates takes note 


of this declaration, and turns it against Gorgias. The 
latter had previously endeavoured to clear rhetoric from 
the reproach which, on the ethical side, so often attaches 
to the application of it. He had spoken of the abuse of 
rhetoric, for which, as he said, the teacher could no more 
be held responsible than could a fencing-master whose 
pupil should employ the skill imparted to him for the 
purpose of committing parricide (cf. Vol. I. p. 471). Here 
Socrates claims to detect a contradiction. If the teacher 
of rhetoric instructs his pupil on justice and injustice, as 
Gorgias now contends, then, Socrates urges, there can be 
no possibility, on the pupil's side, of misusing rhetoric. For 
the knowledge of the good includes according to the 
hypothesis of Socratism, be it observed, not otherwise 
both the will to do good and the actual doing of it ; other- 
wise what is here said of the possible misuse of the art 
lacks justification. 

2. Here Polus rushes in to the aid of his master, and 
contends that the apparent contradiction is merely the 
result of the false shame which prevented Gorgias from 
admitting the superfluousness of knowledge for the orator 
in questions of justice and injustice as well as others. This 
interposition, apart from its ill-natured accompaniment, 
seems to us to be justified, if only we distinguish, in the 
case of one who uses the art of speech as an instrument 
of evil-doing, between the orator and the man. Polus here 
pleads for the purely formal character of rhetoric, exactly 
as we moderns do, and as Aristotle did, who recognized 
that the power of speech, like other valuable possessions 
bodily strength, health, riches, the general's art may be 
used both rightly and wrongly (cf. Vol. I. p. 4/2). That 
Plato should be acquainted with this eminently rational 
view of the matter, that he should express it by the mouth 
of Polus, as previously by that of Gorgias, and that he 
should yet go on to combat it, is perhaps a little surprising, 
all the more so when we consider the nature of the invec- 
tives which he proceeds to hurl against rhetoric. These 
invectives, be it observed, are directed against rhetoric as 
a whole, not against that part of it which may be succinctly 


described as a collection of barristers' tricks, and which 
Aristotle, nevertheless, did not disdain to teach, under the 
assumption that only what he, not very intelligibly, calls 
the " correct " use would be made of it. Rhetoric, Socrates 
affirms, is the mere semblance of an art, a species of 
" flattery," akin to the arts of dress and of cookery (more cor- 
rectly, that of preparing tempting dishes). Like these, and 
like sophistic, it aims only at pleasure, and stands in sharp 
contrast to those arts whose end is the good gymnastics 
and medicine in the physical sphere, legislation and the 
administration of justice in the moral. Such is the tenor 
of the condemnation which, in vehement language, is pro- 
nounced against rhetoric, which latter, it is further con- 
tended, cannot properly be called an art at all, but, like the 
other pseudo-arts with which it is compared, rests on mere 
routine or crude experience, instead of scientific knowledge. 
The harsh injustice of this verdict astonishes us ; all the 
more so when we consider from whom it proceeds. Apart 
from elocution and gesticulation, which, as Plato himself 
recognized, are adjuncts of secondary importance, rhetoric 
is in reality the art of exposition in language ; and it is no 
exaggeration to say that one of the mightiest masters of 
speech has here uttered a fierce accusation against an art 
of which he was himself an illustrious representative. Plato 
was an artist in style ; and if he was a philosopher first and 
foremost, it may equally well be said that Pericles and 
Themistocles to take the examples already cited were 
statesmen before everything else. 

The circumstance that a production of the intellect is 
addressed to " assemblies " in the form of a speech, instead 
of seeking out individual members of such assemblies in the 
form of a book, cannot be regarded as a distinction of fun- 
damental importance, nor was it so regarded by Plato in 
another passage (of the " Phaedrus "). Nothing remains 
except the endeavour to exert an immediate influence on 
men's actions ; but neither is this a feature common to all 
speeches (consider the genus panegyric, and display-oratory), 
nor is it confined to them, for, to pass over journalism, as 
unknown to the ancients, it is also characteristic of pamphlets 


and occasional writings. In truth, Plato was unable to state 
any essential distinction between the oratorical exposition 
of thought and any other kind of exposition in language 
addressed to a wide public, as were, for instance, his own 
dialogues, and he confesses as much, indirectly, in a subse- 
quent passage, where he classes all poetry under the head 
of rhetoric. That great writers, such as Plato was, do riot 
seek only to " instruct," and that great orators, such as 
Demosthenes was, do not aim solely at " persuasion," it 
seems almost superfluous to say. And the last man to 
deny it ought surely to have been that author whose 
works contain so many richly coloured apologues, so many 
fervid exhortations, and among whose younger contem- 
poraries was that orator whose effusions have been termed 
" reason made red-hot by passion." 

On the other hand, nothing could be more just than the 
comparison of rhetoric to the art of the toilet. Just as a 
shapely figure is set off to advantage by a beautiful dress, 
so the garment of artistically perfect speech exhibits the 
full comeliness of its intellectual and emotional content. 
But if this art of " dressing-up," which Socrates censures, 
can be also used to hide physical defects and produce a 
false semblance of beauty, this application of it, and the 
reprehensible character of such application in particular 
cases, are, in reference to the art itself, accidental and 
external, as the misuse of exposition in language is in refer- 
ence to rhetoric. Why, lastly, every kind of practical skill 
which is directed towards pleasure or enjoyment should 
necessarily rest on mere routine, and not on the knowledge 
of cause and effect, we are entirely unable to understand. 
Such an assertion surprises us, even when it dates, as here, 
from an epoch which knew nothing of the " physiology of 
taste," whether in the narrowest or widest sense of the word, 
and to which the chemistry of cookery was as foreign as the 
elements of aesthetics. This attitude, moreover, was not 
long maintained ; Plato himself quashed his own verdict 
against rhetoric, and, in the " Phaedrus," undertook to re- 
construct, on a new and psychologically sounder basis, the 
art which, in the " Gorgias," he had condemned root and 


branch. But our astonishment, for which we have so many 
and so excellent reasons, diminishes when we discern, in 
the further course of the dialogue, what Plato's real inten- 
tion was to criticize the dominant ethics and politics of 
his time. It is with this criticism that the heart of the 
dialogue is concerned ; the criticism of rhetoric as a hand- 
maid to statecraft is merely the door by which entrance is 
gained to those higher regions. 

The art of oratory bestows upon its adepts preponder- 
ant influence in political life : so far, Socrates and Polus 
are agreed. Whether such influence is a prize worth the 
seeking is a question on which their views are wide as the 
poles asunder. At first, indeed, Polus cannot believe the 
disagreement serious. Socrates himself, so he thinks, would 
not despise the possession of the most effective means of 
becoming powerful. Or are not the powerful to be esteemed 
happy ? And are not the orators in a position to carry their 
will and pleasure everywhere into effect ? Their pleasure, 
certainly, answers Socrates, but not their will ; and for this 
reason they cannot be termed truly powerful. The astonished 
Polus is instructed that means and end must always be 
kept strictly separate. The end of all action is happiness 
or well-being. That is what every one wills. But those 
miss their aim who seek it by the paths of injustice. Their 
pleasure is then to employ means which frustrate the end 
which they truly will. For only the just, the good man, is 
happy ; the unjust is miserable and unblessed. For this 
reason neither the popular leader nor the tyrant the jux- 
taposition occurs several times in this connexion, to the 
surprise of ancient as well as modern readers is truly 
powerful or truly happy, although they are able, as Plato 
continually repeats with the strongest emphasis, to kill, 
plunder, and banish whom they please. The ethical dis- 
cussion, we observe, is thickly interspersed with outbreaks of 
the most passionate political antipathy. These outbreaks 
will occupy us later on. 

Here we are concerned solely with the ethical temper 
which is displayed by Socrates with so much pathos, and 
which makes the " Gorgias " so noteworthy a contribution 


to the world's literature. Socrates, or rather Plato, knows 
that in this temper he stands alone. But even if all the 
Athenians and all foreigners, if the most highly esteemed 
citizens, if " Pericles and his whole house," if Nicias the 
son of Niceratus (cf. Vol. I. p. 516), were to bear witness 
against him, he would still, though " standing alone," abide 
by his assertion that to suffer injustice is "better' 1 than 
to do injustice. He will not allow himself to be thrust out 
" from this his possession, and from the truth," but will con- 
tinue to hold that the doing of injustice is a dire calamity 
to the doer of it, direst of all when he remains unpunished. 
Rhetoric, accordingly, would then, and only then, render us 
the greatest service in its power, if it enabled us to accuse 
effectually and consign to appropriate punishment ourselves, 
our " parents, children, friends, or country, whenever any of 
them has done wrong." 

If, on the other hand, it is an enemy who has done 
wrong, then Plato is still far removed from the principle 
of love towards enemies it would be another salutary 
application of rhetoric to shield him from the penalty which 
is his due, to make him even, if that were possible, "an 
immortal villain." From this conviction he is not to be moved 
even by the example of Archelaus, who by perjury, murder, 
and treachery of eveiy kind, paved himself a way to the 
Macedonian throne, and who recently, after reaching the 
summit of power, passed out of this life, surrounded with 
splendour and envied by all (cf. p. 73). 

Envied by all yes? rightly, and also rightly condemned 
by all. Such, practically, is the rejoinder of Polus, who 
refuses to admit the power of wrong-doing to make men 
wretched, though, at the same time, he resolutely approves 
it to be base and blameworthy. Thus Socrates is once 
more confronted by that double standard of judgment, that 
dualistic view of life (" dividing," Plato calls it in the 
" Laws "), that disposition to set happiness here and virtue 
there, which always has found, and still finds acceptance 
with ordinary minds, but which drew from Socrates the 
most vehement contradiction. At the close of this section 
he gives expression to this protest in a remarkable series 


of arguments by which it is sought to extract from current 
ideas of value themselves the conclusion that the disgraceful 
(as we shall henceforth call it) is at the same time harmful 
to the agent. 

The reasoning here employed is closely parallel with that 
by which, a little earlier in the dialogue, it is proved that 
punishment is to the advantage of the evil-doer himself. 

3. Just as Polus had been summoned into the arena by 
the dialectic defeat of Gorgias, so now Callicles hastens to 
the aid of the discomfited Polus. His mode, too, of offering 
assistance is the same. What had in the first instance been 
said of the teacher is now said of the pupil that false 
shame has involved him in avoidable admissions. One 
such admission, Callicles contends, was that by which he 
conceded the doing of injustice to be more disgraceful than 
the suffering of it. He has, in fact, confounded two funda- 
mentally different things, having been betrayed into so 
doing by Socrates, who is accustomed to turn verbal ambi- 
guities to his own advantage in debate. Nature is one thing, 
Convention another and very different thing. The naturally 
disgraceful is the naturally evil, and under this head comes 
the suffering of injustice. It is only the slave, not the free 
man, whom it beseems to endure wrong, and to be unable 
to protect himself and those dear to him from attack. 
Convention, on the other hand, is the work of the many 
and weak, who, with an eye to their own advantage, have 
so framed the laws, so distributed praise and blame, that 
the strong are deterred from making*use of their strength. 

Here follows a passage with which the reader has 
already made acquaintance (Vol. i. pp. 405, sqq.). It con- 
tains a glorification of the man of force and genius, whom 
the multitude vainly seek to enslave and drag down to 
their own mean level. We are astonished at the glamour 
which Plato casts over the young, half-tamed lion whom he 
here depicts breaking his bonds and arising in the might of 
his inborn majesty. We admire the artistic power with 
which he has delineated the, to him, ethically repellent 
character of the " overman." Can it be that, while re- 
pelled by the misuse of genius, he still felt the attraction 


of genius itself? Had he before his eyes the romantic 
figure of Alcibiades, whom he had seen in his impression- 
able youth ? And did his distaste for the burdensome yoke 
of " collective mediocrity " help him mix his colours ? Be 
that as it may, the example of the animal world, as well 
as that of international relations (the right of conquest), is 
pressed by Callicles into the service of his theory. But 
Socrates soon compels him to modify that theory in a 
significant manner. There is more strength in the union 
of many than in the strongest individual, and Callicles is 
fain to confess that, in comparison with the one strong man, 
the despised multitude is the stronger. If this is so, and 
might is right here as elsewhere, then convention, which 
has been established by the many, and which, because of 
this its origin, has met with such contempt, finds its justifi- 
cation in the doctrine of force itself. Callicles now performs 
a remarkable volte-face, and declares that it was not physical 
superiority, but superiority in wisdom and courage, that he 
has had in his mind, and which he has regarded as giving 
a title to rule. Hero-worship and the cult of force pass 
into the background, and in their stead we find a preference 
expressed for aristocratic institutions. Such kaleidoscopic 
changes of sentiment were probably frequent enough in the 
minds of restless politicians who were discontented with 
popular government, and at the same time lacked strict 
mental discipline. As if in scorn, Plato joins, in the person 
of Callicles, want of logical exactness with contempt for 
philosophy, which latter is said by Callicles to be a good 
enough occupation for the years of youth, but as unworthy 
of a mature man as the lisping of a child or a schoolboy's 
games. He who lingers over them too long loses his man- 
hood, and is exposed defenceless to every attack any one 
who likes may box his ears with impunity. Socrates 
proceeds with his task of cross-examination untroubled by 
this abusive speech. The better, by which is now meant 
not the stronger but the wiser, have a mission to rule and 
to profit by their authority. This assertion needs explana- 
tion. Ought the physician, for example, who is the wiser 
man in respect of foods and drinks, to consume them in 


greater quantities than his less-instructed fellows ? Or 
ought the most expert weaver to possess the largest cloak, 
to wear better and handsomer clothes than others ? Callicles 
rather rudely rejects these interpretations. By " wisdom " 
he meant knowledge of politics, and by the "better" he 
meant those who possess such wisdom and are not deficient 
in courage. These are the men whom it befits to rule in 
the State, and it is just that the rulers should have many 
advantages over their subjects. 

The aristocratic ideal of the State thus championed is 
now subjected to what we may call a flanking attack. Are 
the rulers, asks Socrates, to rule themselves as well as 
others ? At first it seems as if a question of individual 
ethics had been irrelevantly introduced into a political 
discussion. But in reality it is not so. Plato also has an 
aristocratic ideal of government ; he, too, believes in the 
rule of the "wise and brave." But it must be a just rule, 
and, therefore, one founded on self-mastery. It thus 
becomes important that he should indicate the precise 
point at which he and Callicles part company. In this way 
both the question itself may be explained, and the answer 
which is represented as being given to it. For Callicles 
gives frank expression to that which " others think, but are 
ashamed to say ; ' he preaches a gospel of pleasure and 
libertinage. Happiness, according to him, consists in being 
servant to none. He who would live rightly should allow 
his desires to increase as much as possible, and be in a 
position to satisfy them by the exercise of courage and 
wisdom. Having thus set up a target, Plato proceeds to 
batter it without mercy. But he who now speaks to us 
through the mouth of Socrates knows much of which the 
latter never dreamed. It is, to put it shortly, a pupil of 
the Pythagoreans that speaks to us here ; and this new 
development, this entry on the scene of an element which 
never afterwards wholly disappears from Plato's thought, 
must now engage our attention for a moment. 

4. In the dialogues which we have hitherto passed under 
review, we discovered no traces of mathematical train- 
ing. In the " Gorgias " such traces occur not infrequently, 


sometimes in close connexion with questions of ethics. 
Thus " geometrical equality ' is mentioned as a principle 
" of great potency among gods and men," and is contrasted 
with the lust of wealth and rule, which latter is even 
ascribed to lack of geometrical training. We read, more- 
over, of " sages ' who have taught these and kindred 
subjects ; Epicharmus is quoted, as also another " Sicilian 
or Italian ; " the Pythagorean punning comparison between 
the body and a grave (aufjLa : <rijjua) is employed ; before 
long we shall meet with other Pythagorean analogies and 
Orphic images. No one of these indications is convincing 
by itself; considered in the mass, and taken together 
with the absence of all such features from the group of 
writings already treated by us, they possess considerable 
probative force. We may, perhaps, gather from them that 
the author of the " Gorgias " had already spent some time in 
Lower Italy, and had there been initiated into Orphic and 
Pythagorean modes of thought, whether it was there also 
that he wrote the work, or whether he waited till his return, 
which may well have preceded his first Sicilian journey. 
The nearer we approach the conclusion of the dialogue, the 
more numerous do the indications of such influence become. 
The ideal of pleasure-seeking and personal passion set 
up by Callicles is combated with two kinds of weapons 
arguments and analogies. The latter, which, on this 
occasion, possess by far the greater convincing force, are 
designated by Plato himself as having been borrowed from 
his new masters. The soul of the passionate pleasure- 
seeker is compared with a leaky tub, which must be con- 
tinually filled afresh without rest or slackening ; while 
the life of self-command or temperance is likened to the 
tranquil possession of impervious vessels brimful of precious 
things. Socrates seeks to prove that the good is not to be 
sought for the sake of pleasure, but that everything else, 
pleasure included, should be sought for the sake of the 
good. Well-being is no longer reduced, as in a passage of 
the " Protagoras," another of the " Republic," and, finally, 
in the " Laws," to pleasurable sensation, but is deprived of 
this content. Instead, we have formal principles, such as 


were not far to seek for a student of mathematics and 
an ethical philosopher acquainted with the Pythagorean 
physics. At various critical stages in the dialogue where 
we expect enlightenment on the purpose of life, what we 
actually find is discourse, made emphatic by iteration, on 
regularity and order, even on harmony. The soul which 
participates in regularity and order is pronounced good, 
like a house or a utensil possessed of the same qualities ; 
all which has not order is pronounced bad. Bodily health, 
too, and every other kind of physical excellence, is identified 
with the same principle. Functions to be performed, or 
services to be rendered, by the utensil, the house, the body, 
or the soul, are ignored altogether, or are at most declared 
impossible of realization apart from the above qualities. The 
purpose of virtue is the doing of that which is "befitting," 
in other words, of that which is just towards men or pious 
in relation to the gods. The virtuous man will seek what 
he ought to seek, and avoid what he ought to avoid in 
every department of life, pleasures and pains not excepted, 
and he will endure patiently when duty requires it. The 
word " right ' is also employed as a predicate. The 
perfectly good man will do " well and nobly " whatever he 
does ; and his well-doing (we have already discussed the 
ambiguity of the formula in the original Greek ; cf. p. 70) 
will place well-being, or happiness, within his grasp. Lastly, 
we read in this connexion of " law ' and that which is 
" legal ; ' but how we are to arrive at a knowledge of this 
law, which can hardly be identified with fluctuating positive 
legislation, we are left in ignorance. 

5. But though the outlines of the picture may be some- 
what deficient in sharpness, the colours could not be 
imagined stronger. There is deep, nay, stern seriousness 
in these pages. " The one thing needful is to live rightly ; 
nothing less is at stake than the whole ordering of our 
life." Cries such as this break forth from time to time, 
and remind us this is not the only instance of the great 
moralist of modern Russia. 

The whole of society, its leaders and representatives 
are passed in review ; they are weighed in the balance, and 


found wanting. Socrates returns to the " arts of flattery," 
and this time he includes among them the music and the 
poetry of his age. He strips from poetry its garment of 
verse, and in the residue, addressed as it always is to the 
masses, he detects " rhetoric " pure and simple. Against 
musicians and poets he makes the explicit charge that they 
seek the pleasure, not the profit, of hearers and readers ; 
and thus, we observe in passing, he indirectly admits what 
was at first denied, namely, that the means of exposition, 
known collectively as rhetoric, are in themselves capable of 
being used rightly as well as wrongly. The same admis- 
sion has already been made by implication in the passage 
where rhetoric is said to be put to a good use when the 
guilty man accuses himself by its aid ; and in the closing 
words of the dialogue the same view is affirmed with 

When the poets have been placed under the ban, the 
tragedians among them, and no exception made in favour 
of, say, Sophocles, the statesmen are added to the list. 
Nor does Plato now confine himself to contemporaries. 
" We do not know of any one who has ever shown himself 
a good statesman in this city," he complains ; nor is Solon, 
the friend and kinsman of his own ancestor Dropides, 
exempted from the general indictment, though he is else- 
where praised as the wisest of the " seven wise men." As 
for the great statesmen of his own century Cimon, Pericles, 
Miltiades, and Themistocles he cites them by name, and 
condemns them collectively. They were no better, he 
declares, than herdsmen who should make the animals 
entrusted to their care wilder instead of tamer. In the 
case of the Athenians this greater wildness was shown by 
their behaviour towards their leading politicians. Cimon 
they banished temporarily (by the process known as " ostra- 
cism ") ; Themistocles they banished for life ; Miltiades, 
too, was punished severely. Socrates admits, in response 
to the vehement protest of Callicles, that these men were 
able servants of the people (we should rather say, effective 
instruments of public opinion) ; that they were competent 
and willing to satisfy in the completest manner the desires 


of the multitude. They might therefore be aptly compared 
to Thearion the baker, Mithaecus the cookery expert, and 
Sarambus the vintner, the first of whom was able to 
provide wonderful loaves, the second equally wonderful 
dishes, and the third the most delectable wines. But, as 
for that which is of true service to man, the statesmen 
knew as little of it as these three men ; such knowledge is 

' > 

only for the physician and the trainer in questions relating 
to the care of the body, and, where the soul is concerned, 
for those who have specially studied its needs. " You 
praise the men who feasted the citizens and satisfied their 
desires, and people say that they have made the city great, 
not seeing that the ulcerated and swollen condition of the 
State is to be attributed to these elder statesmen ; for they 
have filled the city full of harbours and docks, and walls 
and revenues and all that, and have left no room for justice 
and temperance." 

The statesmen disposed of, a similar but somewhat 
more mildly conceived verdict is passed upon the sophists. 
The reasons are the same in both cases. " No statesman," 
Socrates tells us, "can ever suffer evil unjustly at the hands 
of the State which he has governed ; ' if the people rise up 
against him, that proves he has insufficiently performed his 
task of educating them. The case is similar with those 
sophists or teachers of virtue who complain of unjust 
treatment by their pupils, in such matters as the payment 
of fees. Callicles, who reveals himself as a despiser of the 
"good for nothing" sophists, and objects to their being 
placed on a level with statesmen, is met with the reply that 
the sophist and the rhetorician (the term is here syno- 
nymous with " popular leader ' or " statesman ") are the 
same, or very nearly the same thing. The only difference 
is that sophistic ranks just as much above rhetoric (in the 
hierarchy of the pseudo-arts) as legislation and gymnastics 
rank above legal administration and medicine (in the 
hierarchy of the true arts the arts designated as higher 
are those which aim at the production, or the apparent 
production, of permanent conditions ; the lower, at the 

* 518 E, trans. Jowctt. 


removal, real or apparent, of temporary derangements). 
The sophists are evidently in good company for once, that 
of the great statesmen and still greater poets. 

The yawning chasm which divides Socrates from con- 
temporary society and its canons of judgment portends for 
him as he is well aware, even without the warning given 
him by Callicles a danger of no small magnitude. Let him 
cherish, if he will, his conviction that he " alone, or in 
company with but very few, pursues the right method in 
politics " his faith will not save him from persecution. He 
will be summoned before the judges, and he will fare 
there much as would a physician who should be accused by 
a confectioner before a jury of children. What defence 
could the poor man raise against the charge of making the 
children's lives a burden to them by bitter medicines, by 
hunger and thirst, even by burning and cutting, while the 
accuser has dispensed to them nothing but sweetmeats ? 
Socrates, therefore, being ignorant of the arts of flattery, 
quite expects to be condemned to death ; this, however, is 
not so much to be dreaded as that he should descend into 
the lower world with a load of injustice burdening his 

6. The working out of this last thought occupies the 
closing portion of the dialogue. It begins with an account 
of how the dead are judged. In this description, which is 
full of striking allusions to Orphic doctrines, Socrates 
himself professes to see, not a mere tale, but a statement 
of the truth. It had been a primordial enactment of the 
gods that the souls of the pious and just should go to the 
Islands of the Blessed, while those of the godless and 
the unjust should be exiled to the house of punishment 
called Tartarus. But the manner of executing the judg- 
ment underwent a far-reaching change, soon after Zeus 
obtained the sovereignty. Before that time, living judges 
had judged men about to die, but still living, like them- 
selves ; and much injustice had been the consequence. 
For the living defendants had veiled their corrupted souls 
with the covering of bodily beauty, or the splendour 
of wealth and noble birth, by which means they had 


procured much false testimony in their own favour. The 
judges, too, had been subject to error, for their souls were 
also behind veils of ears and eyes and other bodily organs. 
Now, however, the dead are judged by the dead, naked 
souls by naked souls ; Minos, ^Eacus, and Rhadamanthus, 
three sons of Zeus, have that office. The stripped soul 
now shows its quality and the manner of its earthly pil- 
grimage. All its misdeeds have left their mark upon it : 
lying and deceit have made it crooked ; perjury and 
injustice have branded it with scars and wales as though 
it had been scourged ; pride and dissolute living have 
destroyed all its symmetry and beauty. The judges, 
therefore, discern without fail the character of the souls 
before them, and send them to the appointed place of 
punishment, where those which are still curable are cleansed 
by discipline, and the incurable help to reform others who 
see them suffer. Among the worst souls are to be found 
those of powerful princes and tyrants ; nor will the soul of 
the much-envied Archelaus be elsewhere than in the 
midst of them. For it is but rarely that he to whose lot 
fulness of power has fallen can preserve himself pure. Only 
a few have done so, among whom must be reckoned the just 
Aristides, the son of Lysimachus. He, however, who has 
the best right to await the future with confidence is the 
philosopher who has kept himself clear from the reproach 
of doing "many men's business." Thus Socrates for his 
part hopes that when he presents his soul to the judges in 
the underworld, it will be among those which are least 
corrupted ; and, in conclusion, he calls upon Callicles and 
all others to follow his example. In all that discussion in 
which they have just been engaged, one thesis alone 
remained firm and unshaken, namely, that men should be 
more on their guard against the doing than the suffering of 
wrong, and that neither for individual nor for community 
is there any end so worthy to be pursued with zeal and 
earnestness, as the being, rather than the seeming to be, 
good. Towards this end may rhetoric, like everything 
else, render its due share of service ! 

7. With these full chords closes that psalm of justice, 


as we may be permitted to term the " Gorgias." The work 
charms the soul of every reader by its content still more 
than by the greatness of its plan and its perfect execution. 
It produced, moreover, a powerful immediate effect. A 
Corinthian farmer, according to a statement in a lost 
dialogue of Aristotle, read the book, and without delay 
left his fields and vineyard in order to become a pupil of 
Plato. The aged Gorgias himself, whose name the dialogue 
bears, lived to see it published, and is reported to have 
exclaimed, in pained admiration of what could not but 
appear to him a violent caricature of his art, "Athens has 
produced a new Archilochus ! ' The debate on the value 
of rhetoric, nay, on its very right to exist, was continued 
for centuries, with an ever-repeated reference to the Platonic 
dialogue. Thus the rhetorician Aristides, as late as the 
middle of the second century A.D., composed two orations 
in defence of his art, and devoted a third to the justifica- 
tion of the " four statesmen " whom Plato assailed. And 
the Neo-Platonist Porphyrius answered him in a work of 
seven books. 

Here we pause for a few reflexions on the subject of 
historical appreciations. That Plato's condemnation of all 
Athenian statesmen, and of the four in particular, far over- 
shoots the mark, it is quite superfluous to say. To this 
we have a witness whom none can reject Plato himself. 
Hard upon the end of the dialogue, we find him hastening 
to eulogize a particular Athenian statesman, Aristides a 
piece of self-correction that it warms the heart to see. In 
the " Phsedrus " he speaks of Pericles in another and more 
respectful tone ; and, in the " Meno," the statesmen, while 
placed below the philosophers, are still to a considerable 
degree rehabilitated. For the rest, the injustice of that 
unfavourable verdict is palpable. The comparison of states- 
men with shepherds presupposes their possession of a power 
which few politicians have ever attained in constitutionally 
governed states. Again, the fact of their being punished 
by the people is represented as a proof of their pernicious 
influence, without any regard to the question whether such 
punishment is undeserved or richly deserved, as in the case 


of Miltiades. And their use of the unlimited power attri- 
buted to them is painted in the darkest colours ; by a 
" union of the most diametrically opposed," as the rhetorician 
Aristides calls it, their rule is assimilated to that of tyrants ; 
the popular leaders are spoken of as despots who are able 
to rob, murder, and banish whom they choose. 

Whence, we naturally ask ourselves, comes this bitter- 
ness on Plato's part so far in excess of all reasonable 
limits ? Is it to be attributed, as we may at first be inclined 
to suppose, to the execution of his master ? Without doubt 
that deed of horror had deeply wounded his soul. But 
since that time an interval of at least several years, for in it 
falls his Italian sojourn, had elapsed ; and these were the 
years during which those dialogues were almost certainly 
composed which centre in the " Protagoras," and which 
breathe throughout a spirit of lighthearted cheerfulness. 
The flame of wrath must in the mean time have been fed 
with fresh fuel. We now call to mind the political situa- 
tion which had been created by the naval victory of Cniclus 
(Midsummer, 394). The very party which counted Anytus 
among its leaders was then triumphant. The Laconizers, 
among whom were Plato's friends and kinsmen, were the 
vanquished side, and had doubtless been subjected to much 
harsh and unjust treatment. The hero of the hour, the 
man who was being acclaimed as the restorer of the 
State and the democracy, was Conon, who had defeated 
Sparta, and who, by rebuilding the long walls, had re- 
sumed and crowned the work of Themistocles, Cimon, 
and Pericles. 

These same topics had also been treated of by Poly- 
crates, in his lampoon on the memory of Socrates (cf. 
p. 114). This work, probably a poor performance in itself, 
was brought into undeserved prominence by the political 
situation, and for that reason called forth a counterblast 
in the " Gorgias." As Polycrates had singled out the 
martyred philosopher's anti-constitutional sentiments for 
special attack, it was natural that the reply should in 
like manner, be political in tone, and that it should take 
vengeance upon those statesmen (and their predecessors) 


whom the pamphleteer had glorified. Polycrates, as we 
may confidently infer from the "Apology' of Libanius 
(cf. p. 118), had charged Socrates with making the Athe- 
nians "lazy," and, no doubt, fond of talk too a cognate 
fault which the " beggarly prater ' was sure to en- 
courage. Plato answers by retorting the charge. Not 
Socrates, but " Pericles made the Athenians lazy and fond 
of talk, and not only that, but cowardly and avaricious as 
well." It is Pericles whom he names, but he cannot have 
had this statesman alone, or even principally, in view. For 
he specifies " payment of the people " as the instrument of 
corruption. But what Pericles contributed to this practice 
was, as we have recently learnt, merely a modest beginning ; 
he introduced, that is to say, the payment of the dicasts, or 
jurors. The more important payment of the ecclesiasts, 
or men who attended the assembly of the people, did not 
begin until the nineties, soon after which beginning it was 
considerably increased. In both these later developments 
the responsibility lay with Agyrrhius, a powerful and 
popular politician of the day ; and it is against this man, 
in all probability, that Plato's outburst is mainly directed. 

But if Plato went further, and condemned the statesmen 
of Athens in the lump, without sparing even the most 
ancient and most honoured names, this too was in response 
to the challenge of Polycrates. The latter had entered into 
comparisons. With those who found much to censure in 
the Athenian democracy, as Socrates and his friends did, 
he contrasted the great men who were reverenced as the 
founders of the State, Solon among them, and even the 
mythical Theseus. These heroes, as being men of action, 
not wordy pedants and quibblers, were held up by him as 
the most fitting objects of popular admiration ; just as, in 
modern Germany, the followers of a revolutionary theorist 
might be referred back to " Bismarck and Old Fritz." The 
extravagance of the onslaught was met by equal extrava- 
gance in the rejoinder, which admitted no redeeming 
quality in any statesman who had ever engaged in Athenian 

8. Where the waves of passion run so high, the helm of 


logic generally refuses its office. And in truth the " Gorgias " 
must be reckoned, from the argumentative point of view, 
among the weakest products of Plato's pen. A rapid 
review of the chief fallacies contained in it may perhaps 
afford us a useful glimpse into the less admirable side of 
the Platonic and Socratic conceptual philosophy. 

Polus, as we remember 1 , was thrown into confusion as a 
result of his admission that the doing of injustice is more 
disgraceful and more ignoble than the suffering of it. 
The argument has the following form : That alone is 
disgraceful which causes either momentary pain or lasting 
injury. Now, the doing of injustice is not the more 
painful ; it must therefore be the more harmful. From 
this the inference was drawn that the doing of injustice 
is more harmful to the doer himself than is the suffer- 
ing of it to the sufferer. Every one must see that the 
judgment, "This or that mode of action is disgraceful," 
does no more than express the displeasure of the person or 
persons by whom it is affirmed, and gives no information 
whatever on the grounds of that displeasure. At the very 
most it implies that some such grounds do really exist. It 
is not even safe to go a step further, and assert that the 
action in question cannot with justice be pronounced dis- 
pleasing unless it is in some way detrimental to the welfare 
of some sentient being. (For this would be to exclude the 
predicate " disgraceful ): from the sphere of aesthetics, and 
limit it to that of ethics, or rather that part of ethics which 
is concerned with utility.) But, conceding this point, there 
is no process of dialectical magic which can conjure out of 
the above proposition any means of deciding who the beings 
are whom an act of wrong-doing injures, or any proof that 
the doers, rather than the sufferers, of injustice are in the 
worse case. Plato claims to discover the Socratic faith in 
the power of injustice to destroy happiness already con- 
tained in current opinion, but he only does so by first 
importing it there himself. Immediately afterwards we 
find the same method pressed into the service of a kindred 

The proposition to be established is that punishment, 


when rightly inflicted, is always and everywhere salutary, 
or useful, to the person punished. The mode of proof is as 
follows : Whenever anything acts upon anything else, the 
passive side of the process is similar in quality to the active. 
Thus, if A strikes B quickly or violently, B experiences a 
rapid succession of blows, or violent blows, that is, such as 
cause him violent pain. " As is the action of the agent, so 
is the suffering of the patient." Now, he who punishes 
rightly, punishes justly. When justice is done, justice is 
also suffered. The just is noble ; the noble is good, and 
therefore also either pleasurable or useful. Since, then, 
punishment does not give pleasure, it must perforce be 

The very starting-point of this demonstration is no 
more than a half-truth. In a causal process there are some 
qualities which are repeated in the effect, and others which 
are not. If A strikes quickly, B is struck quickly. But 
that to the violence of the blow must correspond the 
intensity of the pain, is not by any means clear. It is not 
merely that the blow may fall on a part of the body affected 
by permanent or temporary, total or partial anaesthesia ; 
such possibilities may be reckoned under the head of 
abnormalities, or rare and negligible exceptions. But 
the fact that sensitiveness is modified by individual and 
racial endowment, by the novelty or strangeness of the 
impression, by hardening or the reverse ; that the Redskin, 
with nerves of steel, will feel a blow differently from the 
more tender-fibred European ; that one accustomed to the 
lash is not affected by it in the same way as he who has 
hitherto been exempt from it ; that the same blow is less felt 
after heavier than after lighter strokes ; these and similar 
facts deserve serious consideration, because they throw a 
strong light on the importance of the subjective factor in 
sensation. It would be easy to quote far more complicated 
cases, and to prove from them that the relation between 
the external agent or stimulus and the sensation thereby 
produced is far removed from the simplicity which Plato 
here attributes to it. 

But we are very willing to leave on one side all the 


psychological and psychophysical questions which arise in 
this connexion. For suppose the first step in the proof to 
be as unassailable as it is the opposite, the argument which 
follows will still be open to the strongest objection. The 
same criticism is applicable to it which we were obliged to 
pass on the reasoning by which it is preceded. Admitted 
that the just is noble, the noble good, the good, when not 
pleasurable, useful, the question still remains open : useful 
to whom ? Why precisely to the person punished, and not 
rather to society, the protection of which, after all, is one 
of the uncontested ends of punishment ? 

To pass from the form of proof to the result obtained, 
how widely have opinions differed, and still differ, on the 
end of punishment ! We see some penalties imposed with 
a view to religious expiation, others intended to deter, or 
to make offenders harmless ; and all of them adapted to 
their several purposes. How can it be maintained that all 
alike are fitted to exert a cleansing or reforming influence 
on the souls of those on whom they fall ? We call to 
mind, lastly, that there is a psychological counterpart to 
the tanned hide of the much-flogged rogue. We remember 
the blunted conscience of the inveterate villain, the incor- 
rigible, the " incurable " in general. Of such Plato treats in 
his "judgment of the dead," and to the punishing of them 
he assigns no other end than the deterring of others. But 
in this he contradicts the thesis laid down in the passage we 
are considering. To the hardened criminal there comes 
through punishment at least as much " justice ' as to the 
novice in crime ; and yet "justice" is here represented as 
something in its own nature salutary and useful to the 
person punished, no matter what his character may be. 
That which is most noteworthy in this, as in the preceding, 
argument, is the state of mind out of which it arises the 
tendency to interrogate current judgments and notions in 
the hope of gaining from them that illumination which 
nothing but the direct investigation of facts can supply. 
To this point it is perhaps worth while to devote a moment's 

When Socrates first cast an inquirer's eye over the 


world of concepts, there awaited him not a few surprises, 
and those of no mean magnitude. This hitherto un- 
explored world could not but produce, in almost as great 
degree as the material universe, the impression of an 
organized whole. The well-ordered fabric of superior and 
subordinate concepts, broadening downwards in the direc- 
tion of concrete reality, and tapering upwards towards the 
most comprehensive abstractions, was bound to fascinate 
and charm the mind of the beholder as much by its 
magnificence as by the mystery of its origin. The 
acquisitions which in the course of centuries, nay, millen- 
niums, had been gained by the obscure labour of analyzing 
and combining thought upon the material of sensation, and 
preserved in the storehouse of language, were sure to 
produce an impression all the more imposing because at that 
time the disadvantageous side of the processes concerned 
had hitherto passed all but unnoticed. Words are the 
helpful servants of thought ; but, useful as they are, they 
diligently foster and faithfully cherish their master's errors. 
The Greek knew but one tongue, his own, and that only in 
a late literary phase ; he was, therefore, without any means 
of shaking off the heavy yoke of language. Nothing was 
known of what \ve call the " life of w r ords," of the caprices 
of linguistic usage, which, advancing upon the stepping- 
stones of analogy, now generalizes the meaning of a 
word beyond all admissible bounds, and again, with equal 
arbitrariness, performs the reverse process of restrictive 
specialization. In short, the natural history, as well of 
speech as of thought, was entirely unknown, and, in the 
absence of any corrective, the cult of concepts was soon 
carried to the length of superstition. 

It frequently happened, in the course of these first 
essays in the study of notions, that commuity of meaning 
was looked for, where all that really existed was a com- 
munity of name, brought about by a long series of imper- 
ceptible transitions. Such, for example, was the case 
with the attempts to define the good and the beautiful. 
On the other hand, where language had erected a 
boundary-post, there, it was assumed, some difference 


must exist, deeply rooted in the inmost essence of things. 
This mode of treatment was soon extended from single 


concepts to combinations of them, that is, to judgments. 
Widely diffused beliefs, particularly those relating to 
values, were credited with little less than infallibility. 
Where assent could not be yielded to them, tireless 
energy was expended in interpretation, until traditional 
judgments had been explained into an entirely artificial 
agreement with private conviction. Thus it came about 
that, as with Plato in the present case and elsewhere, 
traditional judgments were looked upon as a kind of mine, 
in which one might go burrowing after truths, which by 
no possibility could be found there. This disposition to 
delight in ideas and fight shy of facts may be illustrated 
to avoid disputed questions of philosophic method by that 
"law of nature" which did not become obsolete till the 
nineteenth century, or by the mental attitude of those 
many jurists who, to use a humorous expression of Rudolf 
von Jhering, keep their telescope pointed to the "heaven 
of ideas," and there cast about for discoveries which only 
the solid ground of human needs and relationships could 
have in store for them. 

Two more fallacies lie ensconced in that part of the 
dialogue which may be shortly described as a refutation 
of Hedonism. It is proposed to prove the thesis that 
pleasure is not among the number of goods or "good" 
things. If it were so, then, it is contended, " good ' men 
would have the greatest share of it, since they are " good ' 
in no other way than by participation in " the good." In 
reality, however, they have no such preponderating share. 
Cases are cited in which not the good man, but his opposite, 
not the brave man, but the coward, enjoy the greater 
pleasure. It is true they also suffer more pain, but this 
point, though it finds mention, is not pursued further. The 
instance adduced is that of war: when the enemy with- 
draws from the land, the coward rejoices with a greater joy 
than the brave man ; and similarly he is more distressed 
when his country is invaded. Here, as we may remark by 
the way, the Plato of the earlier " Protagoras " or the later 


" Laws " mieht have had recourse to his moral arithmetic 


or mensuration. He might have weighed the pleasures 
and pains characteristic of the coward and the brave man 
respectively against each other, the result of which process, 
we may be sure, would not have been to show a balance in 
favour of the first-named ; and he might have pointed out, 
in addition, that the pleasures of the brave man exceed those 
of the coward by at least that overplus which is the result 
of his equanimity and tranquil stability of character. But 
Plato has here confined his attention to what may be called 
momentary or acute pleasures, as distinguished from per- 
manent or chronic states ; and indeed the general distinc- 
tion between the temporary and the fleeting was so deeply 
impressed upon the mind of the author of the " Gorgias," 
that, in comparison with it, even the difference between 
pleasure and pain recedes into the background. The 
repugnance which he now manifests for pleasurable sen- 
sations of a violent or passionate character causes him to 
attach to the word " pleasure " a narrower meaning than 
that which it has formerly borne, and will again bear, for 
him : it has ceased to be, and has not yet become again, 
the raw material of happiness. Otherwise he would most 
probably have found, precisely as in the " Laws," that the 
" life of courage" does indeed contain "a smaller number 
and a less intense degree of pleasures and pains," but yet 
exhibits, on the whole, " a greater balance of pleasure than 
the life of cowardice." 

Here, however, we are concerned only with the logical 
form of the proof. And in this connexion we may well 
be astonished by the iridescent ambiguity of the word 
"good." Pleasure is represented as not being a good, or 
good thing, on the ground that good men obtain less of it 
than bad men. Now, the men whom we call good are 
those whose disposition of will appears to us worthy of 
praise, in forming which estimate the Socratics laid the 
chief stress on the knowledge or wisdom by which the will 
is determined. On the other hand, by a good or good 
thing we understand a valuable possession, whether it be 
an object of the external world or an element of the inner 


life. Need we quote an example to show how little the 
one has to do with the other ? For Plato, as for others, 
bodily health and strength are among the number of goods. 
But what full vials of scorn would he have poured out over 
the contention that those less richly endowed with these 
good things, the physically feeble and the ailing, ought 
therefore not to be called " good ' in the ethical sense ! 
In order to understand this fallacy, we must bear in mind 
that while Plato, as we have just observed, sometimes 
recognizes a variety of goods, of which wisdom is the 
highest, he also, on occasion, designates this quality as 
not merely the highest, but the only good. Such, in all 
probability, was his thought in writing the present passage. 
His reasoning remains faulty all the same, but his negative 
conclusion becomes comprehensible as the converse of an 
intelligible positive proposition. In wisdom, knowledge, or 
virtue, he sees at once the quality which makes men good, 
and the only good thing, that is, the one legitimate object 
of human strivings. 

The second paralogism which we encounter here may 
be rapidly disposed of. Plato had first of all illustrated 
the inferiority of the life of pleasure and desire by such 
analogies as that of the leaky tub comparisons to which, 
as approximately faithful images of actual facts, consider- 
able probative force must be allowed. But this is not 
enough for the author of the "Gorgias." He is striving 
after that formal rigour of proof with which his mathe- 
matical studies have made him familiar. He wishes to 
prove that the proposition, " Pleasure is a good," contains 
a contradiction in itself. By " pleasure ' he again means 
only that species of it which is bound up with the satisfac- 
tion of desire. There is, no doubt, considerable point in 
the appeal, which he now makes explicitly, having already 
suggested it by a figure, to the fact that every satisfaction 
of a desire or need implies a previous want, that is, a feeling 
in some degree painful. But we can see no merit whatever 
in the argument which follows, and which is put forward as 
if it were conclusive, to the effect that because every 
pleasure (of the kind considered) includes a pain in itself, 


it is therefore not a good, since good cannot contain evil. 
To which it may be answered that the one thing is just as 
possible and just as impossible as the other ; the principle 
of contradiction is, if applicable at all to either case, equally 
so to both. The truth is, of course, that it is applicable to 
neither. For the psychical process connected with the 
appeasement of a desire, say, with the slaking of thirst, 
does not involve the coexistence of mutually exclusive 
contradictories, such as are pleasure and pain, but only a 
rapid succession of the two states. 

9. This fallacy seems to us to be of less importance 
than its root in Plato's mind. For, this time it is neither 
insufficient logical training nor incomplete emancipation 
from the bonds of language that has caused his error. 
The same inner contradiction appears to him admissible in 
one region of thought which is regarded as the lower, and 
inadmissible in another, higher, region. We have here 
touched on a point of no mean importance for the under- 
standing of the whole dialogue. 

Clear and certain traces of the doctrine of ideas will be 
vainly sought for in the pages of the " Gorgias." But it 
may be maintained with confidence that the spirit of the 
new teaching already overshadows this work. It betrays 
its presence by that distinction between the two spheres, 
conceived as separated by a wide chasm, which we shall 
soon find designated respectively as the world of true being 
and the world of mere semblance. It betrays itself most 
of all by a sentence thrown out casually in the " judgment 
of the dead " a sentence from which our present interpreta- 
tion derives no little support to the effect that corporeality 
is an impediment to pure knowledge. Similarly, we shall 
find the other Orphic and Pythagorean elements which 
emerge in this dialogue employed in the construction and 
the articulation of the doctrine of ideas. 

The dialogue contains sundry other indications which 
mark it as belonging to a transition period ; and is not 
free from the contradictions characteristic of such works. 
In a passage near the beginning of it, the Socratic doctrine, 
" He who knows the good does it," is used as a weapon 


against Gorgias. It is urged that if the teacher of rhetoric 
has imparted to his pupil the true knowledge of justice and 
injustice, all misuse of rhetoric for unjust purposes becomes 
impossible. But this accords ill with what we read further 
on : " It is impossible to be freed from injustice in any 
other way" (than by punishment). What then, we ask, 
if the pupil was already affected with injustice ? How can 
bare instruction remove the injustice from his soul ? Nor 
do the words last quoted stand alone. Discipline and 
punishment are referred to repeatedly, and with the 
greatest emphasis, as the principal reforming and educating 
agents. There is, further, more than one allusion to deeply 
corrupted, and even incurably depraved souls, and this 
although Socratism knows no source of evil but error, and 
no remedy save instruction and enlightenment a theory 
with which the practice of the Cynics and the Cyrenaics, as 
far as we are acquainted with it, was in complete agreement. 
In the " Gorgias," on the other hand, as well as in later 
works, Plato admits, both indirectly and explicitly, that 
other impulses assist in the determination of the will 
besides those that spring from (perfect or imperfect) know- 
ledge. The evil will appears as an entirely independent 
factor, like a disease which needs a cure, or an ulcer which 
calls for excision. The Socratic intellectualism begins 
to lose ground in favour of a less one-sided view of human 
nature, which is destined, finally, to issue in the doctrine of 
the three parts of the soul. It is true that at the same time 
Plato holds firmly to such propositions as, " No one errs 
of his own free will ; " but they gradually acquire the 
significance of what our historians of civilization call 
"survivals." Plato allows them to stand unimpeached, 
but unceasingly digs away their foundations from beneath 

As we have already hinted, it is Plato's ethics, and not 
merely its psychological basis, that undergoes transforma- 
tion. The change appears most unmistakably in that 
passage of the "judgment of the dead" where souls are 
spoken of as deformed by sin, and where "symmetry and 
beauty " are treated as marks of moral goodness. A foreign 

VOL. II. 2 A 


and dangerous substance, one might almost say an explosive, 
is here introduced into the fabric of the Socratic ethics. 
For who will vouch that the new canon of beauty will 
always yield the same results as the old canon of utility ? 
Here again, as we may remark by the way, Plato adds 
to his intellectual property a new and valuable element, 
which, though certainly not the whole of ethics, constitutes 
a by no means despicable part of it. Fulness and con- 
sistency never advance, pari passu, in the beginnings of a 
system of thought or belief; sometimes in no part of its 
history. The additions which are inevitable when account 
is taken of previously neglected elements always occasion, 
in the first instance, a loss of logical unity, until at last 
an effort, sometimes a successful effort, is made towards 

Nor were such efforts wanting in the case of Plato. In 
his last work, his philosophic testament, as it may be called, 
he explicitly compares the several ethical standards 
"beauty and truth," "virtue and honour" which, in the 
"Gorgias," had appeared in merely casual juxtaposition; 
and he now asserts their entire compatibility, not only 
with each other, but with that well-being which, almost on 
the same page of the earlier work, was designated as the 
end of life, and which is now once more analyzed into 
pleasurable sensations. But the strength of his faith is 
no longer what it was. In the " Gorgias " Plato proclaims 
the coincidence of virtue and happiness as an axiomatic 
verity ; he knows a thousand tongues will contradict him, 
yet he thunders his message, with triumphant assurance, 
into the ears of the world. It is not a little surprising, 
after this, to find that, when he reaffirms the same thesis 
in the " Republic," he is at pains to support it by a long- 
drawn-out series of arguments, rising by a tortuous course 
from the individual to society. Lastly, in the "Laws," 
when his race is run, the aged thinker holds, indeed, with- 
out wavering, to the faith of his youth ; but it is rather 
because he is inwardly penetrated by a sense of its salutary 
influence than because he is convinced of its demonstrable 
truth. He even lets slip the observation that, supposing the 


whole arsenal of arguments should be found insufficient, 
it would still be incumbent on every not wholly incompetent 
legislator to come to the rescue, and, by means of a "lie 
with a purpose" -the most useful of its kind to make 
provision for the education of mankind. 

But for us, who are still at the " Gorgias," this is a long 
way to look ahead. The old Socratic doctrine, "Moral 
goodness and happiness are inseparably united," dominates 
the dialogue. It has drawn new and strengthening nourish- 
ment from the Orphic representation of wrong-doing as 
something that invariably stains and burdens the soul. It 
is further reinforced by the hopes of a hereafter and the 
terrors of a world below which it derives from the same 
source. Here, in brief, we have the inmost kernel of the 
dialogue, on the origin and plan of which we desire to cast 
one farewell glance before we pass on. 

The deep resentment which had been aroused in Plato's 
breast by the fate of his beloved master was kindled afresh 
and fanned into fiercer flame by the condition of the State, 
by the triumph of the party from whose midst had come 
the author of that unhappy deed, and by the venomous 
pamphlet of Polycrates, in which the master's memory was 
blackened, and the disciples covered with obloquy. He 
sought relief in an outburst of violent indignation, which 
was directed, in the first place, against the statesmen of 
Athens, and, in the second, against the art rhetoric 
which was the instrument at once of their education and 
of their power. This conflict issues, finally, in a duel, in 
which Plato, single-handed, and speaking through the 
mouth of Socrates, combats the whole of society, together 
with all the makers and all the spokesmen of public 
opinion poets, musicians, teachers of youth. Even the 
most revered elements are not spared. It is not without 
a purpose that Plato names, among those with whom 
Socrates places himself in antagonism, the personally most 
blameless of contemporary statesmen, Nicias the son of 
Niceratus. All the members of Athenian society, even 
those of them who stand on the highest moral level, 
labour, so he would suggest, under one great and decisive 


defect. They lack the Socratic faith in the indissoluble 
oneness of justice and happiness ; and with this they 
also lack that absolute and impregnable fixity of the 
good will which excludes all possibility of lukewarmness 
or vacillation. 

Plato proceeds to develop his ideal, and presently holds 
out what for him is the most important element in it as 
the only fit object of study and pursuit. He begins by 
rejecting all popular ideals, those professed openly as well 
as those cherished in secret : hero-worship, the not wholly 
unselfish rule of the most capable, the life of unbridled 
pleasure-seeking. Having eliminated these, he proceeds, 
with increasing earnestness, to explain the one thing 
needful, and sketches a pattern in which the features of 
strict Socratism are blended with those of the Orphic and 
Pythagorean faith. To the former category belong the 
indifference to all externals which is here carried, to speak 
with Callicles, to the length of " turning the whole of life 
inside out." Nowhere else does Plato stand so near his 
fellow-pupil Antisthenes as in the "Gorgias." It is not 
only that they entirely agree in their condemnation of the 
statesmen (cf. p. 154), nor that they display a common 
contempt for all the ordinary goals of human action, with- 
out excepting the labours of those who work for the safety 
of the State. They are also at one in their depreciation' of 
"pleasure," which elsewhere in Plato appears as an element 
of happiness, and is here regarded almost exclusively from 
the standpoint of the appeasement of desire. The most 
powerful are, in general, also the worst of men such is the 
import of a passage in the "judgment of the dead" which 
is entirely Cynic in colouring (cf. p. 159). In the same 
passage we are told that the wise are those who may hope 
most confidently for blessedness hereafter a pronounce- 
ment in harmony with the Orphic teachings handed down 
to us by Pindar and Empedocles. Thus, in the midst of 
that majestic finale^ Socratism and Orphic Pythagoreanism, 
Plato's two guides for the remainder of his life, join hands 

Out of the fusion of these elements will grow the 


system of thought which occupies the central and principal 
phase in our philosopher's development. 

To expound this doctrine of the soul and of ideas will 
shortly be our task. But before we approach it, we must 
first spend some little time by the way. 



I. FAR be from us the presumption of assigning to every 
dialogue of Plato its exact position in the series of his 
works. Still, there are among these writings some which, 
apart from their inclusion in a definite group, may with 
certainty be pronounced anterior to some dialogues and 
posterior to others. Such a dialogue is the " Euthyphro." 
We have good grounds for the view that it followed the 
" Protagoras " and the " Gorgias " and preceded the 
" Republic." What these grounds are will appear in our 
analysis of this little work, the general plan of which is as 
follows : 

Socrates and Euthyphro meet hard by the office of the 
magistrate known as the " King Archon." They ask each 
other what occasion has brought them together there. 
Socrates has been summoned to appear before the court. 
The accusation proceeds from a young and little-known 
man. " Meletus, I think, is his name. Do you know him ? 
Perhaps you remember his lank hair, his scrubby beard, 
and his hawk nose ? ' Not even so much as this is 
known by Euthyphro of the man who has dared to bring 
an accusation against Socrates on a capital charge. Yet 
Meletus so Socrates himself remarks with scathing 
sarcasm is taking hold of politics by the right end ; he 
begins by protecting the youth against their corrupters, 
just as a careful gardener sees first of all to the welfare of 
the still tender shoots. Euthyphro, on the other hand, is 
not a defendant, but an accuser ; moreover, it is his own 


father whom he wishes to prosecute. The facts of the 
case are as follows : His father possesses an estate in the 
island of Naxos. A day-labourer employed by him killed 
one of his slaves in a drunken brawl. This labourer was 
thereupon bound hand and foot and thrown into a ditch, 
and a messenger sent to Athens to bring back instructions 
on the procedure to be adopted against the murderer. 
But before the messenger returned, hunger and cold had 
made an end of the life which had been treated with such 
scant respect. The son now considers himself under an 
obligation to bring the case before a court of justice, lest 
the blood-guiltiness of his father, which has aroused the 
displeasure of the gods, should go unpunished. Socrates 
disapproves of an action so contrary to natural duty. But 
Euthyphro, who is a soothsayer by profession, vaunts his 
accurate acquaintance with divine law. Socrates welcomes 
the opportunity of deepening his knowledge of such 
matters ; it will, as he hopes, turn to his advantage in his 
coming trial. Thus the ground is prepared for a thorough- 
going discussion of the essence of piety. 

In reply to the question What is pious, and what 
impious ? Euthyphro at first merely refers to the class of 
instances to which his own action belongs. It is pious, he 
says, to accuse evil-doers, and, in so doing, to spare neither 
father nor mother nor any one else. He finds " strong 
confirmation ' of this maxim in the examples set by the 
gods. Did not Zeus dethrone Cronos because he devoured 
his own children ? and did not Cronos himself, for a similar 
cause, mutilate his father Uranus ? Socrates raises diffi- 
culties. War, strife, and hatred among the gods have 
always seemed to him incredible things. It is possible 
that precisely this negative attitude of his towards those 
old tales may have something to do with the indictment 
of Meletus. Still, he would gladly take this opportunity 
of being taught better by an expert. But, first of all, he 
would like a plain answer to his question. For Euthyphro 
has not as yet delivered his opinion on the essence of piety, 
but only mentioned particular cases of it. 

Euthyphro accedes to this request, and informs Socrates 


that "pious"' means pleasing to the gods, "impious" dis- 
pleasing to them. Delighted as he is with the manner of 
this answer, Socrates is not entirely satisfied with its sub- 
stance. Moreover, the objection which rises to his lips is 
one which Euthyphro has himself suggested, by his talk 
of the conflicts and enmities of the gods. What is pleasing 
to one god may very well be displeasing to another ; one 
and the same thing may, for aught we know, be hated by 
Cronos and loved by Zeus, be acceptable to Hephaestus 
and an abomination to Hera. This uncertainty, too, would 
affect questions of good and evil, of fair and foul, of just 
and unjust ; not such matters as admit of exact determi- 
nation by weight, measure, and number. This objection 
is surmounted by a restrictive addition : that is pious 
which is pleasing to all the gods. But a new question at 
once presents itself Is that which is pious pious because it 
pleases the gods ? or are the gods pleased with it because it is 
pious f 

Of these alternatives the second is preferred, on 
grounds to which we shall return later on. But, on this 
view, the preceding discussion has failed of its end ; it has 
not brought to light the essence of piety, but only an 
accidental attribute of it, the fact, namely, that it is 
pleasing to the gods. Here ends the first, negative, 
portion of the dialogue, the barrenness of which becomes 
a subject of jesting to both interlocutors. Socrates himself 
alludes to his profession of statuary, and to the ancestor 
of his guild, Daedalus, who was reported to have made 
statues which moved ; even so, none of their conclusions 
will consent to stand firm. But this gibe, he goes on to 
say, is not quite in place ; for it was Euthyphro who was 
responsible for those conclusions. To which Euthyphro 
replies, "As far as I am concerned, they would never 
budge an inch ; you are the Daedalus that has breathed 
into them a spirit of unrest." 

The discussion is beginning to flag, when Socrates 
gives it a new and powerful impulse. On his initiative, 
the concept of "piety" is subsumed under that of "justice." 
The latter is expressly designated as the " more extensive, 


for the pious is a part of the just." It becomes of impor- 
tance to distinguish that part of justice which relates to the 
gods and the "service of the gods' 1 from the part which 
relates to men. The word we have translated " service ' 
may also be rendered "tendance," and is used as well of 
the care bestowed on domestic animals as of the worship 
paid to the gods. In regard to the former of these two 
uses, it appears, on closer examination, that such care or 
" tendance " is directed towards the welfare of the object 
tended. The question is accordingly asked How does 
this tendance profit the gods ? Are we to suppose that by 
our pious actions we make the gods better than they were ? 
The tendance due to the gods must rather be interpreted 
as " service ' in the narrower sense, as analogous to that 
which is rendered by servants to their master. This species 
of service is now examined more closely. 

He who serves a physician, a shipbuilder, an architect, 
assists towards the attainment of an end the restoration 
of health, the construction of a ship or a house. What 
then thus Socrates questions Euthyphro, who is " so well 
informed on things divine " what is that " marvellous 
work, in the doing of which the gods use us as their 
servants " ? As no satisfactory answer is forthcoming, 
Socrates lends a helping hand. He points out that 
"victory in war' 1 is the "chief part" of a general's work, 
that " the obtaining of food from the earth " is the principal 
achievement of the farmer, and he desires to be told, with 
equal definiteness, what is the most important part of the 
work of the gods. Euthyphro, however, is unable to 
satisfy him, and Socrates expresses his disappointment in 
words which point the way towards the understanding of 
the dialogue : " You might have told me in a few words, 
if you had liked, what that chief part is ; but you were 
unwilling to instruct me. Otherwise you would not have 
turned away again when you were so near the goal." It 
has long been recognized that in this passage Plato desires 
to suggest the solution of the riddle, and that this solution, 
as is gathered more particularly from the " Republic," would 
run somewhat as follows: "The work of the gods is the 


good, and to be pious is to be the organ of their will, as 
thus directed." 

But, to go back a little, Euthyphro, an orthodox 
adherent of the popular religion and a believer in holiness 
by works, explains piety as consisting in sacrifice and 
prayer. Socrates has little difficulty in bringing these two 
actions under the more general heads of giving and 
asking. He proceeds to elicit the admission that men 
cannot give to the gods anything which is of any use to 
the latter ; and that piety, on this view of its nature, is 
reduced to a kind of " trading," in which the gods, who 
give us every good gift and get nothing of value in return, 
have very much the worst of the bargain. Euthyphro, 
who has followed this argument with growing uneasiness, 
withdraws to a position of greater safety by insisting that 
offerings brought to the gods are to be regarded as gifts 
of honour, as tokens of reverence which win their good will. 
Socrates draws his attention to the fact that the pious has 
once more been resolved into that which pleases the gods. 
Thus the investigation has ended exactly where it began. 
" My art," says Socrates, jestingly, " is even superior to that 
of my ancestor, Daedalus, for I not only make my figures 
the arguments move, as you say I do, but I cause them 
to revolve in a circle, which brings them back to their 
starting-point." He goes on to say that he is greatly dis- 
appointed, and complains bitterly that the knowledge 
which might be of the highest value to him in his defence 
against Meletus, is being withheld from him by the 
selfish obstinacy of Euthyphro. For no one can possibly 
imagine that a son could bring himself to act in such a 
manner towards his aged father unless he were possessed 
of the most exact information on the nature of piety and 

2. The purpose of the dialogue is no doubt in part 
apologetic. It cannot be for no cause that the figure of 
Meletus appears behind that of Euthyphro. The one is 
the counterpart of the other. Both of them take their 
stand on those traditional opinions on things divine which 
the Socratic cross-examination shows to be confused and 


self-contradictory. Chastisement is meted out to the 
criminal levity which, on the strength of such chaotic views, 
presumes to threaten the life, in the one case of a father, 
in the other of a national benefactor. But the aim of the 
dialogue goes considerably further than this. Not only 
does the criticism of prevalent religious teaching possess an 
independent value of its own ; it is a mistake to ascribe to 
the dialogue, as was formerly customary, a purely sceptical 
or negative tendency. Against such a view is to be set 
the manner in which Socrates himself, that is to say Plato, 
comes forward, at the critical stage of the discussion, with 
a suggestion that raises it above the level of mere criticism 
we refer to his attempt to subsume piety under the 
concept of justice. There is also that near approach to a 
positive result which is indicated to us by the significant 
hint already mentioned (" . . . when you were so near the 
goal"). The possibility of recognizing these facts is due 
to a comparison with the " Republic ; >: and the same 
parallel affords us a deeper insight into the motives which 
guided Plato in the composition of the " Euthyphro," besides 
assisting towards a determination of its chronological 

In the " Gorgias," no less than in the " Protagoras," 
piety is reckoned among the chief virtues. It is placed by 
the side of justice, and distinguished from it as regulating 
the relations of men towards the gods, while justice 
regulates those of men towards each other. Plato after- 
wards abandoned this standpoint ; in the " Republic " he 
acknowledges only four virtues out of the five, and it is 
precisely piety that has disappeared. Not that he ever 
took up an attitude of indifference towards religion. The 
difference is simply this that he has ceased to recognize 
a special sphere of duty having exclusive reference to the 
Deity or the divine. The change involves no diminution, 
rather an increase, of reverence for the Deity, which is 
more and more identified with the principle of good itself ; 
it implies an ever-widening divergence from popular anthro- 
pomorphism. Piety, viewed in this light, becomes a dis- 
position of mind accompanying well-doing, with a reference 


towards the Source of all good. Sacrifice and prayer, so 
we may expand the thought suggested in the " Euthyphro," 
are valuable as expressions of such a disposition, when it 
has depth and sincerity ; otherwise they are of no value 
at all. 

With this changed conception of piety we can hardly 
avoid connecting the criticism bestowed on the myths, the 
rejection of those legends which presuppose among the 
gods, war, hate, enmity, and therefore the opposites of 
goodness and justice. The second book of the " Republic" 
here supplies a copious commentary to the curt text of the 
" Euthyphro." Criticism of the myths, and that rejection 
of anthropomorphism on which such criticism rests, had 
long ago found entrance into the schools of the philosophers. 
Xenophanes, as our readers will remember, had paved the 
way for them. Since then the ethical regeneration of 
religion, as we have shown by the example of the tragedians, 
had made continuous progress. But we may conjecture 
that Plato does more here than simply follow the stream 
of contemporary thought ; that he is, in fact, specially 
influenced by Orphic doctrines. The " fall of the soul by 
sin" (cf. Vol. I. p. 128, sqq.) was meant to trace the origin 
of evil within the circle of human existence, back to free 
choice and individual initiative, and, to this extent at least, 
to relieve the Deity from responsibility for evil a theory 
which, no doubt, also involved a limitation of divine power. 
These same paths of thought we shall see trodden by Plato. 

But how was it possible for him the attentive reader 
may perhaps ask to distil out of accepted religious ideas, 
by the mere analysis of concepts, a new view of piety, alien 
to the national consciousness ? Is everything quite square 
in this discussion ? Certainly not, we reply, without, for 
all that, desiring to assail Plato's good faith by a single 
breath. He is under the spell of what we have taken the 
liberty to call the superstition of concepts. He fully believes 
that he is merely extracting from traditional judgments of 
value their genuine kernel, divested of contradictions and 
confusions, while, in reality, he is substituting for them 
something entirely different. There are two points at 


which this process of unconscious transformation is clearly 

Socrates, after suggesting that the concept of piety may 
be subsumed under that of justice, wins and keeps the 
assent of Euthyphro to this proposition. But in so doing 
he commits, as appears on closer examination, an act of 
logical violence. For the subordination in question is one 
which it is entirely impossible to deduce from the premisses 
supplied by the popular faith of which Euthyphro is the 
representative. One of the most keen-sighted interpreters 
of Plato, one, too, who has done much towards the elucida- 
tion of this dialogue, Hermann Bonitz, endeavoured to 
cloak the violent character of this procedure by ascribing 
to the Greek word which corresponds to our " justice ' a 
wider meaning, " morality " in general. He also pointed to 
certain casual combinations of words, such as "pious and 
just," " pious and lawful," as proving how near to each 
other were the corresponding concepts in the mind of the 
Greeks. But neither expedient seems to us admissible. 
The family of words to which "just' 1 and "justice' 
belong does indeed betray a tendency to stand for " right- 
doing " in general, but even then only in the sense of the 
social morality that regulates human relations. And the 
frequent occurrence of the formulas quoted, while it may 
rightly be held to prove the close affinity of the concepts 
in question, fails entirely to establish the particular relation- 
ship ascribed to them ; for it was never the mode to connect 
genus and species by the word " and." Co-ordination and 
subordination are two indubitably different things ; the 
popular mind may have agreed with the "Gorgias" 
in assuming the former relation, or with the " Euthyphro " 
in preferring the latter, but it cannot possibly have done 
both together. 

We pass on to the second point the discussion of the 
question whether the pious is pious because it is pleasing 
to the gods, or whether the gods are pleased with it 
because it is pious. The decision in favour of the second 
alternative is without doubt to be regarded as homage 
paid to human reason, on behalf of which a declaration of 


autonomy is hereby put forth. But the mode in which 
this decision is arrived at is open, in our opinion, to grave 
logical objection. Plato is seeking to prove that the concept 
under investigation cannot have for its content that which 
is pleasing to, or loved by, the gods. To speak of some- 
thing as " loved " implies, he contends, an object which is 
loved as well as a subject which loves, as much so in the 
case of loving as in that of leading or carrying. He then 
emphasizes the idea of causality, with the remark, that 
whether a thing is loved, led, or carried, there must be some 
reason for it. All this may be quite true and yet not involve 
the conclusion, which is tacitly but unmistakably drawn from 
it, that the content of piety is something independent of 
the mere will and pleasure of divine beings. The possibility 
remains open that the object loved by the gods may be 
that quality of submissiveness to divine commands which 
is common to certain actions and dispositions of mind. 
This is the position logically unassailable which many 
believers in revealed religion have taken up. He who 
believes he has sufficient guarantee for the authenticity of 
particular announcements of the divine will, and who 
further feels himself constrained to obey that will, whether 
by fear, by hope, by love, or a combination of motives 
such a one will decide the question in the sense rejected by 
Plato. Like certain nominalists of the Middle Ages, he 
may renounce all attempts to rationalize the idea of piety ; 
he may frankly admit the "omnipotence of the divine 
pleasure," and yet affirm that, whatever may be the out- 
come of the divine will, obedience to that will, or "what 
is pleasing to God," comprises for him the whole content 
of piety. 

The above was already written, when my attention was 
called to the surprising parallel presented to the funda- 
mental thoughts of the " Euthyphro " by Kant's " Religion 
within the Limits of Unassisted Reason." If the thinker of 
Konigsberg had desired to illustrate Plato's dialogue, he 
could hardly have expressed himself otherwise than in the 
following passage, which was written without any reference 
to it : 


" Religion is the recognition of all our duties as divine 
commands. . . . By this generic definition of religion 
provision is made against the erroneous notion that it is 
an aggregate of particular duties, having immediate 
reference to God, and we are guarded from the assumption 
that in addition to the civic duties of man towards man, 
there is an obligation to render court-services, and that zeal 
in the latter may possibly atone for neglect of the former. 
In a universal religion there are no special duties towards 
God ; He can receive nothing from us ; we cannot act either 
upon Him or in His behalf. If any one finds such a 
duty in the reverence due to God, he does not reflect 
that this is no particular act of religion, but a religious 
temper accompanying all our acts of duty without 

3. The second of the two dialogues which we feel com- 
pelled to place after the " Gorgias," while deficient in the 
well-rounded symmetry of the first, is no less full of matter. 
Indeed, the " Meno ' may perhaps be said to suffer from 
repletion ; it is possibly the exuberant wealth of thought 
that has injured its artistic form. Without any word of 
preparation or introduction, the young Thessalian Meno 
puts to Socrates the question, " Can you tell me whether 
virtue can be taught, or whether it is acquired by practice, 
or whether it comes to man in some third way, whether 
by natural endowment or otherwise ? ' Socrates declares 
his inability to answer the question. How could he know 
how virtue is acquired, when the very nature of virtue is 
still for him a matter of uncertainty. Meno, however, 
who in his own country has enjoyed the instruction of 
Gorgias, will doubtless be more exactly informed on this 
point. The youth takes up the challenge by defining the 
virtue of man as civic efficiency, and that of woman as 
obedience to her husband and skill in housekeeping. He 
intimates his readiness to go on and delimit, in like manner, 
the virtue of the free man and the slave, of the boy, the 
girl, and the greybeard. Socrates, however, does not want 
to be introduced to a "swarm of virtues," but to virtue 
itself in its unity. This, according to Meno, is the capacity 


of ruling men. Against this definition two objections are 
raised. It is not applicable to the virtue of the boy or the 
slave, and, even within the sphere of its applicability, it 
stands in need of limitation : rule must always be exercised 
in accordance with justice. But justice is itself a virtue, 
and cannot, therefore, serve in the definition of virtue in 
general. As such logical refinements are strange to Meno, 
the ethical investigation is interrupted by a discussion of a 
different subject, which is meant to be a sort of preparatory 
training. The concepts of form and colour are subjected 
to examination, and form is stated to be that which is 
always associated with colour. This definition is rejected 
as implying a reference to that which is as yet unknown. 
The following is then proposed as a pattern of correct 
definition : " Form is the limit of the corporeal." It is now 
the turn of colour ; the definition offered is that of Gorgias, 
and rests on the Empedoclean physics : " Colour is an 
efflux of the corporeal, corresponding to sight (that is, to 
the pores in the organ of vision), and affecting perception." 
This definition is criticized as being high-sounding, but in 
reality inferior to the second definition of form perhaps 
on the ground that it relates to the physical conditions of 
the colour-sensation, not the sensation itself. 

A return is now made to the ethical subject, and Meno 
professes agreement with certain words of a lyric poet : 
"To rejoice in the beautiful and to be capable of it." The 
context of this phrase is not known to us, but it can hardly 
have meant anything else than, " Receptivity for all that is 
beautiful (noble, good), combined with the corresponding 
active faculties." From these words of the poet the young 
Thessalian is represented as extracting, not without some 
violence, a definition of the virtuous man : it is the man 
who desires the beautiful, or honourable, and is able to 
obtain it. This attempt is analyzed with thoroughness. 
First of all, the beautiful or honourable is identified with 
the good. Then follows the assertion, in conformity with 
the Socratic teaching, that no one ever desires what is evil, 
knowing it to be such. The distinguishing excellence of 
the virtuous cannot, therefore, consist in the universal desire 


for what is good ; and the main weight of the definition is 
now made to rest on the second clause, which relates to the 
acquisition of the good. But this acquisition must be by 
means which piety and justice allow ; thus, as justice is 
itself a park of virtue, we are once more landed in a vicious 
circle. The definition includes a reference to a part of the 
thing to be defined. Meno here launches into a complaint 
against the Socratic manner. He has now learnt by 
personal experience, so he declares, what he had often 
before heard from others that Socrates is only able to 
confuse and to disconcert. He compares the Socratic cross- 
examination to the electric shock of a torpedo. This fish 
benumbs those whom it touches ; and similarly he, Meno, 
is " benumbed in mouth and soul," and does not know what 
to answer, He now understands why Socrates never leaves 
his native place. Abroad, he might very easily find himself 
on his trial for witchcraft. Socrates replies that the com- 
parison with the torpedo would be appropriate only if that 
fish were itself numb and communicated its own condition 
to others. For he is himself a searcher, and does no more 
than impart to others a perplexity which is first his own. 
His expression of readiness to continue the search and 
investigation is met by Meno with the proposition that 
search and investigation are impossibilities. The object 
sought is either already known, and then the search is 
unnecessary ; or else it is not known, and then the searcher 
will not recognize it, even if he finds it. 

Our readers will remember a certain sceptical utterance 
of Xenophanes to which the second part of this proposition 
bears a strong resemblance a resemblance which appears 
with the greatest clearness in the original Greek. At the 
same time, they will not have forgotten that this scepticism 
of Xenophanes was limited to the domain of the super- 
sensual, in regard to which verification is beyond our reach. 
Though Socrates, rightly enough, applies the epithet 
" eristic " to the proposition thus generally stated, he at the 
same time takes it in serious earnest, and opposes to it the 
doctrine of Reminiscence, which, in its turn, he founds on 
the dogma of immortality and the transmigration of souls. 
VOL. IL 2 B, 


He cites lines of the poet Pindar, to the Orphic-Pythagorean 
content of which he joins the inference that the soul, in the 
course of its pilgrimage, has seen all and experienced all, 
so that all seeking and learning is nothing else than 
recollection. There is no impossibility, "seeing that the 
whole of nature is inwardly related, and the soul has learnt 
everything," in the supposition that a single memory may 
be basis enough for the recovery, by courageous and inde- 
fatigable search, of all that has been forgotten. Meno is 
incredulous, but the truth of the assertion is made clear to 
him by an example. His young slave is called forward, 
geometrical figures are drawn in the sand, and the boy is 
led, entirely by the method of question and answer, to 
acknowledge, or rather to enounce spontaneously, a few 
elementary propositions in geometry. The inference is 
drawn that by the same means he may attain to the 
understanding, not only of geometry, but of all science ; 
and that, since no positive instruction is imparted, but a 
knowledge of which he was previously unconscious, is, as it 
were, elicited from him, this knowledge must have been 
slumbering in his soul, and he must have acquired it in a 
former existence. 

The investigation is assisted in yet another manner by 
the geometer. The latter does not always return a direct 
answer to a given question, but sometimes pronounces a 
problem solvable on a particular assumption. The main 
problem of the dialogue, " Can virtue be taught ? ' is 
treated in a similar way. Virtue, it is affirmed, can be 
taught if it is a kind of wisdom or knowledge. The validity 
of the hypothesis is proved as follows : Virtue is a good 
in all circumstances. All goods are useful. But they can 
only be useful when rightly used. This is true, not only of 
such goods as health, strength, beauty, riches ; qualities of 
the soul, courage, for example, are no less capable of doing 
harm as well as good, according to the use made of them. 
Right use, however, is conditioned by knowledge. "All 
activities and operations of the soul issue in happiness, 
when they are guided by wisdom, and in the opposite of 
happiness when they are guided by folly." If, then, virtue 


is a quality of the soul, and is at the same time necessarily 
useful, it must be wisdom. 

The goal of the investigation thus appears to have been 
reached by an indirect path ; and not only the possibility of 
teaching virtue, but also its essence, seem to be established. 
But the spirit of doubt awakes once more. This time it 
takes a form with which our study of the " Protagoras " 
has already made us familiar. If a subject can be taught, 
must there not be teachers and students of it ? At this 
point Anytus appears, most opportunely, as Socrates says, 
and seats himself by the interlocutors. (We catch here a 
glimpse of the same stage-setting that has already done 
duty so often : a semicircle or other resting-place in some 
locality accessible to the public, probably in the ante-room 
or the precincts of a gymnasium.) The new-comer is the 
son of the rich and sensible Anthemion, a man who has 
acquired his wealth, not by gift, like the Theban Ismenias, 
lately enriched by Persian bribes, but by his own industry 
and ability. The son of such a father has no doubt been 
well brought up, and has received a good education ; how 
else would the Athenians have placed him in the highest 
posts ? Here is a man who may be fitly questioned about 
teachers of virtue, and who will be able to say whether 
there are any or not. Thus Anytus, who is, moreover, 
bound to Meno by ties of hospitality, is drawn into the 

The dialogue now descends from the heights of abstract 
generality to the lower levels of actual facts. Asked 
whether the teachers sought for may not be found in the 
sophists, Anytus, who holds that class of men in abhorrence, 
answers by an outburst of violent abuse, introduced, doubt- 
less, for the purpose of displaying the speaker's irritable 
temper and his hostility to culture an hostility which will 
one day make him the accuser of Socrates. The sophists, 
however, who are not followers of Socrates, and who, in 
respect of fundamental ethical problems, are no wiser than 
their public, are not accepted by Plato, any more than by 
Anytus, as the true and genuine teachers of virtue. These 
are now sought for in a new quarter in the ranks of the 


great statesmen. Thus we are faced once more by the 
second of the difficulties raised in the " Protagoras : " Why 
do statesmen not impart their own virtue and excellence 
to their sons after them ? For our attention is a second 
time called to the failure of paternal education ; moreover, 
four statesmen are mentioned by name whose sons have 
remained far in the rear of their fathers' greatness. The 
selection 01" instances exhibits, in part, a remarkable agree- 
ment with the " Gorgias," and, in part, a no less remarkable 
divergence. Anytus follows the discussion with growing 
uneasiness doubtless because his own son is anything but 
a triumph of education. His irritation at length finds 
expression in an exhortation to prudence, or rather in an 
unmistakable threat, which he addresses to Socrates. The 
two are once more alone, and the result of the discussion, 
in its present stage, is pronounced self-contradictory. Two 
equally cogent syllogisms confront each other in un- 
appeasable opposition : 

1. Virtue is knowledge ; 
Knowledge can be taught : 
Therefore virtue can be taught. 

2. Knowledge can be taught ; 
Virtue cannot be taught : 
Therefore virtue is not knowledge. 

But here this dilemma is not the last word of the 
investigation. Not in vain have complaints been voiced 
against the resultless and purely negative character of 
Socratic discussions. A way of escape from the irrecon- 
cilable antinomies is provided by the distinction between 
scientific knowledge and right opinion. The former is, and 
remains, "by far the more valuable." Its greater worth 
rests on its permanence. But right opinion, when it is 
present in the mind, may replace the rarer and less easily 
attainable possession. If we are seeking the way to Larissa, 
Meno's home, and no one is at hand who has already passed 
over the road and knows it well, good service may yet be 
rendered us by a guide who, without knowledge, has right 


opinion. The only difference is that opinions are fugitive ; 
they run away from the mind as a slave from his master, 
and they must be bound fast before they can attain their 
full value. The work of binding them is performed by the 
apprehension of grounds or causes, which, assisted by the 
Reminiscence already spoken of, transforms the fleeting 
opinions into permanent knowledge. The successful states- 
men who, as has already been seen, are unable to impart 
their own excellence to others, do not possess scientific 
knowledge, but only right opinion. In this they resemble 
soothsayers and poets, to whom right opinion comes as a 
divine gift. 

A solution has thus been found for a part, though not 
the whole, of the difficulties raised. For the remainder, as 
the disputants admit, a solution is still to seek, and it is 
urged that the question, " Can virtue be taught ? ' cannot 
rightly receive a final answer until the nature of virtue has 
been ascertained. With these admissions, and with the 
significant request, addressed to Meno, that he will bring 
his friend Anytus to a gentler frame of mind a change 
" which will be to the advantage of the Athenians " we 
reach the end of the dialogue, on which not a little yet 
remains to be said. 

4. The " Meno " is for us a biographical document of no 
mean rank. Here for the first time we, in a manner, find 
ourselves sitting at Plato's feet. For the dialogue bears 
the unmistakable stamp of its author's vocation. His mind 
is busy with questions of method, and these constitute for 
him a link between widely separated provinces of know- 
ledge (hypothetical reasoning). He arranges a preparatory 
exercise, in which the pupil is braced for his attack upon a 
more difficult problem (the definition of form). His work 
as teacher has broadened his horizon ; the dialectical 
student of ethics has become a thinker whose survey 
embraces a number of particular sciences. He already 
knows by experience the propaedeutic value of mathematical 
instruction. He has observed with astonishment how the 
deductive procedure leads the pupil to results which he 
almost appears to spin out of himself, thus displaying a 


knowledge which has never been communicated to him. 
Nor are these the only instances in which the practice of 
teaching has introduced him to new problems. He has 
been led to question the possibility of learning and teaching 
in general. Thus he has been conducted to a theory of 
knowledge of which his earlier works apart from an 
isolated hint in the " Gorgias " (corporeality as an impedi- 
ment to knowledge) present no trace. " His earlier 
works," we say, and we are prepared to prove that the 
phrase is no empty assertion. This same proof, however, 
is bound up most intimately with the question as to the 
true aim of the dialogue. 

The "Meno" is a point of junction in the scheme of 
Plato's writings. In it threads are gathered together which 
proceed from two different dialogues. Two such threads 
stretch across from the " Protagoras." There, as here, we 
find discussed the two problems : (i) How can virtue be 
knowledge, and therefore communicable by teaching, when 
it is impossible to point to any teachers of it ? (2) How, 
on the same hypothesis, can the fact be explained that 
excellent statesmen do not educate their sons to equal 
excellence with themselves ? In the " Meno," as we have 
seen, the second of these difficulties finds its solution ; and 
it is precisely this circumstance (as was long ago perceived 
by Schleiermacher) which establishes the relative dates of 
the two dialogues beyond controversy. For it would be a 
sheer absurdity to lay afresh before the reader a problem 
which had already been solved. Closely connected with 
the fundamental distinction between " scientific knowledge " 
and " right opinion," there meets us that more indulgent 
judgment of Athenian statesmen which offers so note- 
worthy a contrast with the venomous scorn poured out 
upon them in the " Gorgias." This contrast could not fail 
to attract attention permanently ; and, since these are no 
writings of a 'prentice hand, it was without doubt intended 
to be noticed. In the present, as in the former dialogue, 
four statesmen of the first rank are named ; two of them 
are the same in both, the two others vary in accordance 
with the needs of the context. In the "Gorgias' 1 the 


statesmen are declared to have exercised no influence 
whatever for good ; in the " Meno " they are still accorded 
no more than the second place after the philosophers, but 
there is no more contemptuous brushing aside of names 
held in universal respect. Which is the more probable 
hypothesis ? That Plato intentionally emphasized his 
advance from a moderate to an immoderate paradox, and 
his abandonment of the well-thought out, carefully con- 
structed theory on which the former rested ? Or that he 
desired to give the reader a sufficiently intelligible hint that 
he had at last learnt to mitigate and limit an extravagant 
opinion, which wounded the strongest feelings of his 
countrymen ? The latter, without a doubt ; and for this 
reason the " Meno " must be put later, not only than the 
" Protagoras," but also than the " Gorgias." 

Here we may give expression to a conjecture that this 
" apology " to the statesmen of Athens is nothing less than 
the main feature and raison d'etre of the whole dialogue. 
It occupies the closing portion of the work, and remains in 
our minds as a parting impression. From this point of 
view, too, the general plan of the dialogue may be ex- 
plained. For the purposes of a palinode to the " Gorgias " 
to use a strong, perhaps too strong, expression there 
was need of an appropriate form, one which should spare 
the author's self-respect as much as possible. Accordingly, 
the plan commended itself to him of tacking his retractation 
to a discussion of the second of the difficulties raised in the 
" Protagoras." It is true that in the last-named work Plato 
almost certainly inclined to the opinion that the statesmen 
were lacking in wisdom, and that their manifold failures 
as educators helped to prove the fact. But he had by no 
means expressed that opinion with the same harsh bluntness 
as in the " Gorgias ; " rather he had appeared to leave the 
decision hanging in the balance. Thus it was easy for an 
ingenious author, never at a loss for an expedient, to make 
a show of returning to the question, as one still unanswered, 
in a dialogue the personages of which are represented, not, 
we may be sure, without a deep-lying reason, as hungering 
for positive solutions, as weary of everlasting banter and 


mystification. The famous image of the torpedo is not, in 
our opinion, applicable to the historical Socrates alone. 
Plato himself, at the threshold of the positive portion of 
the dialogue, allows himself to be swayed by the long 
unsatisfied desires of his readers, and presents them with 
the expositions which so fully occupy the remainder of the 
work. And although the latter are by no means destitute 
of independent interest (when did Plato ever write anything 
that was ?), the goal to which they all lead is the above- 
mentioned " apology " to the statesmen. 

We have still to consider the objection that this apology 
is meant ironically an unfortunate conjecture of Schleier- 
macher's, which we need not controvert at great length. 
Praise ironically meant must, before everything else, be 
inappropriate or exaggerated. But what contemporary of 
Plato, in particular what Athenian, could have viewed in 
that light the position assigned to Athenian statesmen in 
the " Meno," where they rank as second to the " philo- 
sophers ;" that is, to Socrates and his disciples ? "A truly 
strange order of merit," ninety-nine out of a hundred 
readers would probably exclaim, " and one which is any- 
thing but just to our great men ! >: That more than justice 
had been done to them, is an idea which not even the 
hundredth reader would have entertained for a moment. 
How, in such circumstances, was the idea of irony to occur 
to any one ? Was it possibly suggested by the personality 
of the men whom Plato chose as representatives of their 
class ? This point deserves a little consideration. 

Of the four men whom Plato condemns so mercilessly 
in the " Gorgias," two Themistocles and Pericles re- 
appear without change ; two others Miltiades and Cimon 
-are now necessarily passed over. Miltiades, the eminent 
father of an eminent son, could not appropriately be 
mentioned in a context which starts from the question : 
Why do great statesmen not leave equally great sons 
behind them ? Cimon, too, had to disappear, for the 
reason, if for no other, that it would have been the height 
of literary ineptitude to call attention, by naming the son 
even without the father, to the one exception to the rule which 


the author is maintaining. Whom, then, do we find in the 
two places thus vacated ? Thucydides, the son of Melesias, 
and Aristides ! This last name decides once for all the 
question we are considering. And it would be equally 
decisive of the point even if Plato had not taken care to 
close up, as we may say, every avenue of error by the 
warm and unstinted praise which, in the " Gorgias " itself, 
that work so hostile to the statesmen, he bestows upon the 
"just" son of Lysimachus. 

Nor does it seem impossible to explain the difference 
in tone and in attitude towards practical politics which 
distinguishes the " Meno ' from the " Gorgias." In the 
latter, the keynote is flight from the world, and a defiant 
turning away from reality ; in the former there is an 
endeavour to do justice in some measure to actual society 
and its more prominent representatives. In the one we see 
a high-flying contempt of any and every compromise ; in 
the other a search often to be repeated for a middle 
course, a workable substitute for the intellectual and moral 
perfection which is so hard of attainment. The voice which 
speaks to us in the " Gorgias ' is that of a disciple cut to 
the quick by the attack upon his master, of an author whose 
hands are still free, and whose project of founding a school 
has been but lately conceived. Or, possibly, he has just 
entered upon the work, his bosom swelled with proud and 
measureless hopes which no experience has as yet taught 
him to moderate. He is ridiculed for an unheard of 
enterprise, deemed unworthy of his noble birth, and re- 
proached for his avoidance of public life, his wasting of rich 
gifts on logic-chopping and word-picking in the petty arena 
of his lecture-hall. Against all which scorn and reproach, 
on the part of friends and kinsmen perhaps still more 
than of opponents, he puts on the armour of inflexible 

A few years have passed. The young school thrives, 
though not without conflicts. To the master's feet there 
throng ambitious youths, anxious to possess themselves of 
the weapons needful for political strife. The interests of 
the new institution, the demands it is required to fulfil, the 


quarrels it has to sustain, form so many links binding its 
director closer to life. The charge of estrangement from 
the world no longer leaves him indifferent. His self- 
appreciation has become surer and more moderate ; for 
which reason it now finds less violent expression. Nor 
is caution still a despised virtue for him ; rivals are 
busily spying out every joint in his harness. May we not 
discern in this phase of Plato's emotional life a phase to 
be followed by others of very different kinds the soil out 
of which the " Meno " sprang ? 

To the threads which connect our dialogue with the 
"Protagoras" and the "Gorgias" there is joined another 
which stretches forward to the "Phaedo." I mean the 
retrospective reference in the last-named dialogue to the 
doctrine of Reminiscence and to the exposition of it given 
in the " Meno." Schleiermacher was fully justified in saying 
that the author of the " Phsedo " alludes to the " Meno " 
" perhaps more definitely and more explicitly than in any 
other place to any earlier work." We are thus brought to 
the works in which the doctrine of ideas is expounded, and 
to these the next few sections will be devoted. 




I. ARISTOTLE speaks in a certain passage of Plato's " love- 
speeches." The allusion is to the " Symposium ; ' still, 
the same designation might have been applied with almost 
equal propriety to the greater part of the "Phaedrus." 
So intimately connected in subject are these two dialogues, 
which we are under the necessity of treating separately. 
In both, considerable space is taken up by that particular 
variety of erotic sentiment which played so large a part in 
Greek life, and to which we are obliged to devote a few 
observations, chiefly historical, if the content of the two 
dialogues is to be understood aright. 

Two years before his death, Goethe expressed himself to 
the Chancellor Miiller in a manner which the latter reports 
as follows : " He explained the true origin of that aberration 
by the fact that, judged by the purely aesthetic standard, man 
is far more beautiful, more excellent, nearer to perfection 
than woman. Such a feeling, he said, having once arisen, 
easily acquires a brutal, grossly material character. The 
love of boys is as old as humanity, and may be said to be 
contained in nature, although it is against nature." But, of 
course, " the advances which civilization has made upon 
nature must be held firmly and not abandoned on any 

Besides this aesthetic point of view, there are other 
factors to be taken into consideration, of which the first is 
that determination towards the male sex of the natural 
instinct which occurs in the military life of primitive 


peoples, and under various other conditions involving 
scarcity of women. The great antiquity of this tendency 
in the Greek race, particularly in the Dorian branch of it, 
is attested by prehistoric rock-inscriptions on the island of 
Thera, as also by deeply rooted customs of the Cretans 
and Spartans. But there is also an ideal factor of con- 
siderable strength which comes into play here the relation 
of fidelity between protector and protected, gratitude for 
deliverance from danger, admiration for superior courage, 
and that tender care of the younger and weaker, for which 
the vicissitudes of war and migration offer such manifold 
opportunity. Historical truth is here endangered by the 
utter strangeness, to the minds of at least the great majority 
among us, of this whole mode of feeling. In the case of all 
ancient personalities with whom we feel lively sympathy, 
words and actions having reference to the love of boys are 
almost inevitably watered down by us or explained away 
in a quite arbitrary manner ; while we reject beforehand 
any reports of this character, not wholly free from doubt, 
which may be extant concerning them. It is necessary, 
therefore, to remember that the sentiment in question 
appeared in as many, if not more, varieties and grada- 
tions, than the love of women at the present day. Here, 
as elsewhere, a noble scion was often grafted upon a 
savage stock. Devotion, enthusiastic, intense, ideal, was 
not unfrequently the fruit of these attachments, the 
sensual origin of which was entirely forgotten. Similar 
phenomena are not uncommon to-day (we omit all refer- 
ence to exceptionally constituted members of highly civi- 
lized communities) among the Albanians, whose ancestors, 
the Illyrians, were racially akin to the Hellenes. " The 
aspect of a beautiful boy " thus Johann Georg Hahn, the 
author of " Albanian Studies," reproduces the utterances of 
a son of the soil " is purer than sunshine. ... It is the 
highest and strongest passion of which the human breast is 
capable. . . . When the loved one appears unexpectedly 
before him, he changes colour. ... He has eyes and ears 
only for his beloved. He does not venture to touch him 
with his hand ; he kisses him only on the brow ; he sings 


his verses in his honour only, never in that of a woman." 
Soon we shall hear similar accents from Plato's lips. 

But even where this erotic sentiment is not entirely 
ennobled and transfigured, it is often restrained and held 
in check by strong opposing forces. The Spartan king 
Agesilaus, whose feelings and behaviour may be taken as 
typical of the best society of his country, was highly sus- 
ceptible to boyish beauty. But he strove, with all the 
power at his command, not to make the least concession to 
the impulses which were thus excited in him. Not for all 
the gold in the world, so his companion Xenophon makes 
him say on one occasion, would he renew the conflict which 
he once sustained victoriously, when he refrained from 
kissing a boy whose beauty had bewitched him. Such 
austere seventy was far removed from the laxer temper of 
the poet Sophocles, who, as his contemporary Ion relates, 
when staying in the island of Chios, once enticed to himself 
by a playful artifice a boy who had just given him to drink, 
and stole a kiss from him. Here, in all probability, the 
erotic impulse itself was weaker, as well as the resistance 
offered to it. One might almost speak of trifling gallantry, 
as opposed to strong, but bridled, passion. From such 
examples we may learn that it is folly to pass wholesale 
judgments on the phenomenon of " Greek love," to see in 
some cases mere brutal instinct, in others entire freedom 
from such inclinations, and thus to divide ancient humanity 
into two sharply distinguished groups. It is true that we 
find different epochs wearing very different aspects in regard 
to this question. 

In the picture of society which the Homeric poems 
spread before us, the love of boys has left no trace. In 
importing this element into the friendship of Achilles 
and Patroclus, a later age did violence to the ancient 
poem. The romantic love of woman was also but scantily 
represented in epic literature, as in the early Greek world 
in general. The germs of it, which lay scattered in local 
sagas, were not to burst into flower before the age of 
Hellenistic literature. Still, the relations of men and 
women are penetrated by a warmth and tenderness which 



becomes more and more foreign to the sentiment of suc- 
ceeding ages. It would be in vain, for example, to seek a 
parallel to the parting of Hector and Andromache in tragic 
poetry. Moreover, the influences which brought about 
what we may call the depreciation of woman are not 
difficult to discover. As Ionic civilization tended more 
and more towards the Oriental fashion of secluding women, 
as rural life lost ground before city life, as democracy drew 
ever-increasing numbers within its pale, and the growing 
interest of politics made rhetoric and dialectic the favourite 
occupations of men as, in a word, the life of the sexes 
became divided by an ever-widen inginterval, these changes 
were accompanied by a corresponding diminution in the 
dignity and significance of woman, and in the respect paid 
to her by the men of at least the higher strata of society. 
"We marry in order that we may beget legitimate children, 
and know that our households are left in the keeping of 
some one we can trust " this typical saying sufficiently 
characterizes the ordinary Greek, or at any rate Athenian 
marriage, which in most cases was a marriage of con- 
venience. And at the epoch with which we are here 
concerned, this process was steadily advancing. In the 
narrative of Herodotus women play important, often 
decisive, parts, and not unfrequently inspire passionate 
devotion. In Thucydides, on the other hand, there is so 
little mention of wives, or of women in general, that the 
reader sometimes feels as though he had been transported 
into a community consisting exclusively of males, a sort of 
inverted Amazon republic. And if we find a somewhat 
different picture in the pages of Xenophon, we must reflect 
that the works of this much-travelled soldier are no true 
mirror of Athenian life and sentiment. Into the void thus 
created, a void rather which, so far as the romance of love 
is concerned, had existed from the beginning, there now 
intrudes that form of erotic feeling which we have already 
encountered, and of which the " Phaedrus ' and the 
" Symposium," together with their prelude, the " Lysis," 
afford us so ample a view. 

First of all the " Lysis." The matter of this dialogue 


need not trouble us ; we shall find it developed to greater 
richness and maturity in the brilliant luminary of which 
this work is the modest satellite. But the introduction, 
extending as it does to unusual, one might almost say to 
undue length, is in this connexion of inestimable value. 
The ardent, yet reverential devotion of Hippothales to the 
beautiful Lysis, his changes of colour, his manner of hiding 
himself and hanging with admiring glances on every move- 
ment of his beloved, all this forms a finished picture, 
contrasting with the similar but fugitive touches of other 
dialogues. Here, too, Plato opens up to us a completer 
view of the inner workings of the gymnasia, the true 
nursery-grounds of affection between beautiful boys, whose 
beauty was there displayed unveiled, and their companions 
of a slightly greater age. A series of life-like tableaux 
passes before us : a troop of begarlanded youths offering 
sacrifice to Hermes, whose festival is being kept ; another 
group amusing themselves with dice in a corner of the hall ; 
in the background, the aged slaves employed to take charge 
of the boys, warning them with growing insistence that it is 
time to go home, and grumbling at the long delay in their 
foreign jargons. 

2. The theory of love, however, is the subject of one of 
the most magnificent works of art that Plato's pen ever 
produced the " Symposium." Agathon, the still youthful 
tragic poet, has gained his first triumph on the stage 
(B.C. 416), and a select circle has assembled in his house to 
celebrate the event. As the same company met yesterday, 
and drank deeply in the victor's honour, it is resolved that 
to-day the wine-cup shall be enjoyed moderately, and with 
no compulsion. The flute-girl is dismissed ; speeches in 
praise of the god of love are to provide the entertainment. 
Phaedrus, the proposer of the idea, opens the contest. 

Foremost among the benefits which Eros confers on 
mankind, is the sense of honour. The lover is nowhere 
so ashamed of a cowardly or mean action as in the presence 
of the object of his affection. A state or an army, that 
should consist only of lovers and loved, would be invincible. 
Not men only, but even women, are willing to die for those 


whom they love. As an instance, Alcestis is mentioned, 
who was ready to face death for her husband Admetus. 
Then follows more accessory matter of a mythological 
character. The speech ends with the praise of the god 
as the oldest and the most honourable of the gods, as well 
as the most helpful towards the attainment of virtue and 

The next speech reported is that of Pausanias. He 
reproaches his predecessor for confusing two different 
species of love. For love is twofold, just as there is a 
distinction between the heavenly and the common Aphro- 
dite. The worshippers of the latter love women as well 
as boys, and in both they love the body more than the 
soul. But that love which is under the guardianship of 
the heavenly goddess is directed towards the sex which 
is by nature stronger and more capable of reason ; more- 
over, it prefers youths to boys whose future development 
is still uncertain. It is those who occupy themselves with 
the latter who have caused it to be commonly said that 
it is disgraceful to show favour to a lover. The whole 
question, to be sure, lacks clear and certain regulation. 
Not in Elis and Bceotia (that is, among Greeks of ^Eolian 
des'*' :), where the reproach just mentioned is never 
uttered. Nor yet in Ionia, nor in other lands where Greeks 
live under barbarian governments ; for, to the barbarians, 
the love of boys, philosophy, and gymnastics are equally 
odious, seeing that their princes go in terror of high spirit 
and close friendship. But in Sparta and Athens the 
established rules are fluctuating and uncertain. It is of 
moment to ascertain their hidden significance. The truth 
is, that mere love of the body, which comes to an end with 
the bloom of youth, is bad ; as also is, on the part of him 
who is loved, regard to external advantage, to wealth and 
power. Only when the two are bound together by the 
common pursuit of perfection, of wisdom, and the other 
parts of virtue, is their union profitable to them ; and it 
is honourable to give ear to a lover for the sake of 

The distinction contained in this second speech has 


served to advance the division of the subject, and thus 
to prepare for its treatment later on by Socrates. The 
third speech, that of Eryximachus, now renders similar 
service by enlarging the bounds of the discussion. It is 
perhaps also intended to mark the extreme point which 
had been reached by prae-Platonic speculation in this 
field. For it is on the philosophy of nature that the 
physician Eryximachus founds his reasoning. The art 
of medicine itself teaches us, in respect of bodily desires, 
to distinguish two kinds of love, according as they are 
directed towards what is wholesome or what is injurious, 
according as the appetite is healthy or diseased. Further, 
it is the physician's task to reconcile in friendship and love 
those elements in the body which are most inimical to 
each other, the opposites, namely, of warm and cold, moist 
and dry, and the like (cf. Vol. I. p. 148). Similar in kind 
is the procedure of gymnastics, of agriculture, and of music ; 
in treating of which the speaker quotes Heraclitus. Here, 
too, that distinction between the heavenly love and the 
common has place, according as music, rhythm, and the 
cadence of verse engender lust and licence, or the seemly 
ordering of the soul. In the same way, the fruits of the 
earth depend for their thriving upon the right combination 
and harmonious fusion of the elemental opposites. All 
this is the work of the love that is " seemly," while the love 
that is wild and wanton proves fatal to the welfare of plants 
and animals alike. Finally, the art of divination is intro- 
duced as a go-between in the love of gods and men a 
thought which to us seems violent to the point of scurrility, 
but was certainly not so regarded by Plato. For by making 
Socrates take up the idea again, along with others scattered 
through the earlier speeches, he impresses upon it the 
mark of his approbation. As for the part which he does 
not agree with, Plato may spare himself the trouble of 
criticizing it, because he has already done so in the " Lysis." 
In this dialogue the two natural theories of love, as we may 
call them the attraction of like to like, and that of like 
to unlike are discussed with reference to the teachings of 
the nature-philosophers (almost certainly Empedocles on 
VOL. II. 2 C 



the one side and Heraclitus on the other). Both are 
rejected. The attraction of likes is objected to as at best 
a half-truth, for the more the bad communes with the bad 
the more hateful does his companion become to him 
Indeed, the predicate " like," as is added with some 
subtlety, cannot be applied to the individual bad man 
even in respect of himself ; for he is altogether changeable 
and incalculable. Suppose, then, that by " likes " is meant 
the good only ; even then a host of doubts remain. For 
like can gain from like nothing, good or bad, which he 
cannot gain from himself. If it be said that the good 
is friendly with the good, not as like, but as good ; this, 
too, will not stand, for the good man is sufficient to 
himself. Nor does the opposite theory, the one repre- 
sented by Eryximachus in our dialogue, fare any better. 
The objection raised against it is that there can be no 
friendship between love and hate, just and unjust, good 
and evil. 

3. Then follow the speeches of the two poets, Ari- 
stophanes and Agathon, in which, as was to be expected, 
the jest far outweighs the earnest. Here, accordingly, we 
recognize such a resting-place as the artist-hand of Plato 
loved to prepare in the middle of his works. 

The speech of the great comedian is filled with a 
grotesque humour worthy of the author of " Gargantua." 
Men were originally divided into three sexes ; for besides 
men and women there were also men-women. They also 
possessed double bodies, which, being round and sup- 
ported by four arms and four feet, were able to move with 
prodigious velocity. They were enormously strong, and 
full of pride, so that they threatened the very dominion of 
the gods. The latter, therefore, took counsel together, 
what should be done with man. Opinions were divided, 
for annihilation of the human race meant the loss of all 
sacrifices and offerings. At last Zeus came to the rescue 
with a suggestion. " Let us bisect mankind," he said, 
" then will each one of them be the weaker, and we shall 
receive all the more sacrifices." This was done. Men 
were sliced down the middle, as an egg is cut through 


with a thread. Each half was now filled with yearning 
for its lost complement ; and as the whole had originally 
belonged to one or other of the three sexes, so was the 
direction of this yearning determined. Hence arose the 
different species of lovers' desires a subject which is 
treated at length and with no lack of plainness. Thus 
was produced the condition in which mankind now is. 
Whether the matter is to end here or not, remains un- 
certain. If we provoke the gods again by our impiety, 
then, it is to be feared, we shall be split a second time, 
and be left like the bas-reliefs which adorn gravestones. 
Meanwhile, we come nearest bliss when the yearnings just 
spoken of are fulfilled. Praise, therefore, be given to Eros, 
who, if we fail not in piety, will yet perhaps restore us to 
our original nature, and make us whole and happy. Even 
in this irreverent burlesque there is an element of serious 
thought. Desire for one's own was one of the current 
explanations of love, one which is fully discussed in the 
" Lysis," and which Socrates, when his turn comes to speak, 
will think not unworthy of refutation. 

As a well-kept pleasure-garden differs from a park left 
to nature, so the trim, starched speech of Agathon contrasts 
with the wild exuberance of Aristophanes. The former 
speaks like a delicately trained orator of the school of 
Gorgias. His effort is as poor in profound thought as it 
is rich in subtle, ingenious, and seductive turns of expres- 
sion. Eros is not, as Phaedrus had said, the oldest, but 
rather the youngest of the gods. In support of this asser- 
tion a multitude of proofs are adduced. Not in his reign, 
but under his forerunner, " Necessity," were those wars of 
the gods, those mutilations and other violent deeds of 
which legend tells. He is young, too, because he flees 
from old age, whose all too rapid advance he far outstrips 
in his still more rapid flight. With his youthful age his 
softness and tenderness well agree. To all hard souls he 
is a stranger. By virtue of his suppleness he moulds him- 
self upon the soul ; thus his entrance and his departure 
are alike unperceived. He loves to dwell among flowers; 
where blossoms are and fragrance, there he alights and 


makes his home. As Agathon is bent on ascribing to Eros 
all imaginable excellences, he is not afraid to number 
temperance among his attributes, playfully arguing that 
temperance is the mastery over pleasures and desires, and 
that the god of love is stronger than these. A little later, 
to be sure, he speaks of luxury as one of the gifts of love. 
To Eros, likewise, he refers the origin of all arts and 
sciences, seeing that they all have sprung from some long- 
ing or desire. He concludes with a series of artistically 
grouped clauses, plentifully adorned with rhymes and 
antitheses. Nor, lastly, does he fail to confess that in the 
speech just offered to the god, jest has been mingled with 

Plato's knowledge of and power over artistic effect are, 
perhaps, nowhere displayed with so much brilliance as in 
this part of the work. It borders on the miraculous that 
one mind should have been capable of all these creations, 
in particular the two last. The contrast between the two 
speeches is obvious enough. But apart from this, calcula- 
tion of the exactest sort is employed. The Socratic cross- 
examination, which follows, could have no better foil than 
Agathon's speech. The contradictions between the various 
discourses, and of the last with itself (Eros the oldest and 
also the youngest god, Eros the source both of temperance 
and of its opposite), cry aloud as it were for a discussion 
that will clear the air. The jingling peroration of Agathon 
strengthens this impression to the uttermost. The reader is 
sick of sweetmeats, and longs for plainer but more nourish- 
ing diet. And when at last the dialectic of Socrates leads 


him back to the heights of pathos and inspiration, the effect 
upon him is doubled by the contrast with the artificialities 
with which he has been sated. 

4. Socrates remarks that he has evidently misunderstood 
the agreement. The previous speakers have merely set 
themselves to praise love, without regard to truth or false- 
hood. He desires to speak nothing but the truth, and he 
begins with a series of questions addressed to Agathon, of 
which the result may be summarized as follows : All love 
is love of something ; something, moreover, of which one 


stands in need. This object of love is either to be gained 
now, or, if possessed already, to be retained in the future. 
Eros is therefore necessitous ; and since it is beauty that 
he desires, and the beautiful is good, he is in need of the 
good. Now follows a dialogue within the dialogue. For 
Socrates affirms that the accurate knowledge which he 
possesses of the nature of Eros has been derived from the 
instruction of a prophetess, Diotima of Mantinea. The 
artifice is similar to that employed in the " Phaedrus," 
where Socrates ascribes the inspiration, which he feels 
descending upon him, to the influence of the neighbouring 
sanctuary of the nymphs. The object sought is to justify 
the poetic flights of Plato as coming from the mouth of 
Socrates, as well as the exposition by the latter, a little 
further on, of a specifically Platonic doctrine. 

He, too, had praised Eros as a great god and fair, 
exactly as Agathon has been doing, and Diotima had 
shown him his error by the same arguments which he has 
just repeated. Eros is in truth neither good nor fair, nor 
yet is he foul or evil, but something between the two. 
Further, he is no god at all ; but just as little is he a 
mortal. In this respect, too, he is a mean, a great spirit 
mediating between gods and men. Diotima next named 
to him the parents of Eros. These are Wealth and Poverty. 
They met on the birthday feast of Aphrodite, when Poverty 
stood begging at the door, and Wealth, who was drunk with 
nectar, lay slumbering in the garden of Zeus. To him 
then came Poverty, who wished to have a child by Wealth, 
and so conceived Eros. The latter is also a philosopher, 
that is, one who desires wisdom. For as he is neither poor 
nor rich, so is he also neither wise nor without under- 
standing, but in a mean between the two. Now, the 
advantage which Eros brings to men is that he (as 
befits one conceived on the birthday of the goddess of 
beauty) teaches them to desire the beautiful. But among 
things beautiful is the good, and it is through possessing 
the good that the happy have obtained happiness. All 
men, at all times, desire the good ; and if it is not said 
that they always love, the reason is that by the name of 


" love " a part is generally understood, and not the whole, 
much as the word " poetry " is used in a restricted sense of 
the making of verse, whereas its full meaning (iroiijmQ, from 
Troitiv, to make) includes all creating or making. 

That, then, which men love is not their own, as 
Aristophanes thought ; for a man is ready to have his 
own feet and hands hewn off if he thinks them useless. 
Desire is for the good, and, indeed, for the perpetual 
possession of the good. But this permanent and unbroken 
tenure is obtained by means of generation, which is both of 
body and of soul, and always takes place in the beautiful, 
since ugliness repels from generation. Love is thus directed, 
not towards the beautiful, but towards generation in the 
beautiful, and its aim is immortality. Diotima also referred 
him to the example of the animals, which for the sake of 
generation, and in the protection of their offspring, are 
ready to fight against the most unequal odds. Nor is it in 
any essentially different manner that continuity and per- 
manence are secured in the individual, within whom there 
is unceasing change. He is, indeed, spoken of as one, but 
the greybeard is in no part of himself the same as when he 
was a child. Nor yet is it only flesh and blood, and bone 
and hair, that come and go in endless succession ; the same 
holds also of the things of the soul of character and dispo- 
sition, of opinions, desires, sorrow, joy, fear, and even know- 
ledge, the passing away of which is called forgetting, and 
the continuance of which is only apparently made possible 
by exercise in reality, new knowledge takes the place of 
that which has been lost. This, indeed, is the only means 
whereby things mortal may abide ; that which is old and 
worn out must leave behind it something new and other 
than itself, though of the same kind. 

Socrates was astonished by this teaching, but the wise 
Diotima bade him look also upon the ambition of man 
that hunger for an immortal name and an undying 
memory by which the best of men are moved to do the 
greatest deeds. Such men are they whose souls, rather 
than their bodies, are filled with the impulse towards 
generation, and who desire to bring into the world that 


which is of the same pattern as their own souls wisdom 
and all virtue. To this class belong poets and other 
cieative artists. The greatest and fairest part of wisdom 
is that which has to do with the ordering of cities and 
families ; the name of it is Temperance and Justice. He 
who is seized by such longing seeks the beautiful, in order 
to engender in it ; and if he finds a fair body inhabited by 
a fair, noble, and richly gifted soul, he rejoices greatly at the 
union. At once he breaks forth into discourse of virtue 
and of what things are excellent in man : thus he begins 
to form the youth. By this means there is woven round 
the two a stronger bond than that of husband and wife. 
Their offspring, too, is fairer and more immortal ; it is such 
offspring as Homer fathered, or Hesiod, or great law-givers 
like Solon and Lycurgus. For the sake of such offspring, 
not for their mortal posterity, men have had temples raised 
to them. 

Diotima next turned to the perfected mysteries of love, 
and expressed a doubt whether Socrates would be able to 
follow her. For it now became necessary, she said the 
youthful love of a fair body being taken as a starting- 
point to acknowledge that the beauty of any one body is 
-own sister to the beauty of any other ; that it would be 
folly not to allow the beauty of all bodies to be one and 
the same. He who acknowledges this begins to love all 
fair bodies ; but the vehemence of his love for one is abated. 
Next, he regards beauty in the soul as higher than that of 
body, and, in consequence, the superior soul is sufficient 
object for his love and care, even when attended with little 
physical charm, and draws forth from him the teachings 
which help youth towards perfection. He is thus con- 
strained to behold beauty in actions and in character, and 
to confess that here, too, all beauty is akin, so that hence- 
forth beauty of body is but a small thing in his eyes. 
From action he passes on to knowledge, in order that he 
may discern the beauty of the sciences. He now ceases 
entirely from gazing in slavish subjection on the beauty of 
a boy, a man, or an action ; instead, the whole ocean of 
beauty is spread befoie him ; and again he brings to the 


birth fair and noble teaching, until, strengthened thereby 
and grown to full stature, he perceives one only science, 
which is the science of the beautiful. 

But having thus arrived at the goal of his love's journey, 
he suddenly becomes aware of something marvellous in its 
essence, beautiful, and itself the archetype of all beauty. 
This "ever is, and neither becomes nor decays, neither 
increases nor diminishes ; it is not in part fair, in part foul 
nor fair at some times, foul at others ; it is not fair by one 
comparison and foul by another, nor fair to some and foul 
to other eyes. He will not now figure to himself the 
beautiful as having form, as a face or other part of the 
body, nor yet as teaching or knowledge, nor as existing in 
something other than itself, . . . but as something which 
exists in itself and for itself, and is everywhere the same. 
All else that is beautiful has part in it in such wise that 
while these other things arise and pass, itself is neither 
increased thereby nor diminished, nor suffers any manner 
of change." This ascent, however, which leads step by step 
to the " sight of the beautiful itself, pure, absolute, and 
unmixed, not laden with flesh and colour and the other 
lumber of humanity," is also the way to a life of virtue, to 
friendship with God and immortality. Socrates declares 
that by Diotima's words he was convinced a conviction 
which he is now endeavouring to impart to others " that 
human nature has no better help in this quest than Eros." 

Just as Aristophanes is addressing himself to answer, a 
troop of revellers bursts into the house. At their head is 
Alcibiades, a flute-girl on his arm, a thickly woven garland 
of ivy and violets and a mass of ribands on his head. 
With these he begins to adorn Agathon, in honour of his 
victory. Suddenly, and not without alarm, he perceives 
Socrates. After the exchange of a few friendly jests, he 
delivers an encomium upon Socrates, whom he also decks 
with ribands. His speech exhibits a strange mixture of 
emotions fear, devotion, shame, admiration. He has 
always desired to flee from Socrates, as from the voice of 
his own conscience, but the siren-song of the philosopher 
always entices him back. He has often wished that 


Socrates were no longer among the living, and yet he is 
certain he would feel the loss of him as a grievous mis- 
fortune. His praise of Socrates (cf. pp. 47, 72) culminates 
in a narrative which exhibits in the clearest light his 
master's abstinence and self-control in short, his tempe- 
rance ; while the frank candour of the speaker, excessive 
for any but a half-drunken man, moves the loud laughter 
of the company. The banquet draws to a close. Some 
of the guests take their departure ; others fall asleep. The 
first cock-crow finds none left but Socrates, Agathon, and 
Aristophanes, who are eagerly discussing the nature of 
dramatic art. At last Aristophanes is overpowered by 
fatigue ; Agathon a little later, when the dawn is well 
advanced. Socrates alone holds out. He now walks to the 
Lyceum, where he takes a bath. After that he spends 
the day in his usual occupations, and it is not till evening 
that he seeks rest in his own house. 

That Plato is an artist may be seen in almost every line 
that he has written; in the "Symposium' he claims the 
title for himself, by preaching the cult of beauty. The 
dialectician and the moralist, which sometimes seek to stifle 
the poet in him, here pass into the background, or rather 
are enlisted into the service of metaphysical poesy. It may 
be confidently affirmed that in this work Plato is more him- 
self than in others. He no longer appears as a mere disciple 
of Socrates ; and he is just as little an adherent of the 
Orphic-Pythagorean doctrines, with which the endeavour 
after a merely vicarious immortality is in direct contradiction. 
May we infer a date for the composition of the work ? 
Probably only to the extent of placing the dialogue, which 
was written after 384, later than the series of purely Socratic 
writings (an allusion to the " Charmides " well accords with 
this), but not to the extent of placing it before all the 
writings which show traces of Orphic- Pythagorean influence. 
Against such a supposition may be set the single fact that 
a result worked out in the " Meno " " right opinion " as 
something intermediate between knowledge and ignorance 
is here seized upon and employed in the discussion as if 


it were a self-evident truth. But the modes of thought 


acquired in Lower Italy have not yet gained so great a 
hold upon him that he cannot, under the influence of a 
powerful impulse, throw off the fetters for a time. And, in 
truth, it must have been a powerful impulse in obedience to 
which the author of the " Symposium ' placed himself in 
fundamental contradiction to the views expressed both in 
his earlier and his later works. What a chasm yawns 
between the judgment here pronounced upon the poets and 
the estimate of them contained in the " Gorgias," between 
the justification of ambition in this dialogue and its rejection 
in the " Republic," not to speak of love itself, which in the 
" Theaetetus " is ignored, along with its significance for 
study and the formation of youth, and which, in the 
" Phaedo," is scorned, along with everything else that has 
its origin in sense while, here, it is a ladder on the rungs 
of which the earnest striver may climb to the sight of the 
sublimest visions, and thereby be brought near to moral 
perfection and the likeness of God ! But it is time to 
inquire into the inner structure of this remarkable work. 

What link, it may be asked, joins the " love-speeches ' 
which form the main portion of the dialogue, to Alcibiades' 
hymn in praise of Socrates, which brings up the rear ? This 
apparently accidental after-thought is, in our opinion, the 
true root from which the whole work sprang. The praise of 
Socrates, indeed, is a theme which Plato is always ready and 
willing to enlarge upon. But he had a definite motive and 
occasion for placing such praise in the mouth of Alcibiades 
we refer to the pamphlet of Polycrates, already mentioned 
by us more than once, the effect of which was felt for so 
long. This writer had spoken of Socrates as the teacher 
of Alcibiades in what tone and with what intention can 
easily be guessed. In a similar manner Prodicus and 
Anaxagoras had been reproached for having educated 
Theramenes and Pericles respectively (cf. Vol. I. pp. 426, 
582). But while the memory of Theramenes was honoured 
by many, and that of Pericles by most, Alcibiades, in spite of 
the admiration inspired by his personality and genius, was 
all but universally reprobated for the ruin he brought upon 


the Athenian Empire. Xenophon labours for pages together, 
after his own somewhat clumsy fashion, in the cause of the 
defence. He acknowledges, not without reluctance, that 
Socrates might perhaps have done better to instruct both 
Alcibiades and Critias in self-control first and in politics 
afterwards ; still, his example, Xenophon contends, exer- 
cised the best of influence on the two young and ambitious 
men, as long as their intercourse with him lasted ; it was 
afterwards that Alcibiades was corrupted, by life, by women, 
by foreign potentates, by the Athenian people itself, all 
through no fault of Socrates. What a different method is 
that of Plato ! 

Instead of meeting the charge directly, he presents the 
reader with a life-like portrait of Alcibiades, whom he 
introduces describing his relations to Socrates with the 
proverbial truthfulness of wine, and in a manner which 
disarms the accusation : " He compels me to acknowledge 
that all the time I am busy over the concerns of the 
Athenians I am myself full of imperfections, which I neglect 
to remedy. . . . Therefore I run away from him and avoid 
him, and, when I see him, I am ashamed of my confession." 
If only he had been more in the company of Socrates so 
every reader of the " Symposium " was bound to say how 
much better would it have been for Athens ! But what, the 
same reader might perhaps ask what about that liaison 
between the two men, which, in Socratic circles at least, 
used to be matter of jesting ? Plato himself had touched 
on the subject, harmlessly enough, in his youthful works, 
as, for example, in the introduction to the "Protagoras," 
which runs as follows : " Where have you been, Socrates ? 
But I need not ask. Where else should you have been but 
in pursuit of the fair Alcibiades ? " But after the appearance 
of Polycrates' libel, he may well have thought it advisable 
to speak a word of enlightenment on the subject ; which is 
exactly what he does, with a plainness that could not be 
surpassed, in the present encomium. This, again, provided 
him with a natural occasion for treating of Socrates' attitude 
towards erotic sentiment in general. It was precisely the 
well-known incontinence of Alcibiades against which he 


wished the temperance of his wise friend to stand out in 
vivid contrast. 

At this point the apologetic purpose merges into Plato's 
craving to delineate his own peculiar erotic mysticism. It 
is here hardly possible for us moderns to enter into his 
feelings. All we can do is to point out analogies kindred 
phases of sentiment in Mohammedan Persians, Hafiz, for 
example ; the extravagances of mediaeval chivalry ; above 
all, Dante and his Beatrice. For as the last-named opened 
the gates of Paradise to the Italian poet, so Plato, guided 
' but not overmastered by the erotic impulse, rose to the 
vision of the ideal of beauty and of all the ethical and 
religious grandeur with which it is so closely associated. 
No proof, we think, is needed that in the teaching ascribed 
to the wise woman of Mantinea, the author of the 
" Symposium ' is giving utterance to his own deepest 
feeling and most intimate experience. From no other 
source could he have derived that warm glow and colour of 
life. Features, too, are not \\ anting of the most individual 
and personal kind. The rivalry with the great poets of the 
past, the confident hope of winning, by his works, immortality 
like that of Homer, the " discourses about virtue " which are 
the fruit of love, and the earnest endeavour to educate and 
ennoble the beloved youth all this is something more 
than Platonic doctrine : it is part of Plato's own life. We 
venture, though with some hesitation, to go a step further, 
and name, as the chief object of this etherealized affection, 
Dion, to whom Plato dedicated an epitaph replete with 
memories of passionate feeling. Quite in accordance with 
Diotima's rule, Dion was no immature boy, but a youth 
of about twenty, distinguished in appearance and highly 
gifted, when Plato, who was some fifteen years older, first 
met him at Syracuse. Philosophy was not the only subject 
of their conversations ; they were busy with projects of 
political and social regeneration, which the philosopher 
hoped he might one day realize by the aid of the prince. 
On this view there is point and pertinence in that otherwise 
irrelevant mention of legislative achievement among the 
fruits of the love-bond. 


But on the wide ocean of Beauty to which the river of 
Love conducts us, there rises into view an enchanted island, 
radiant with imperishable glory we mean that meta- 
physical creation which is known as the doctrine of Ideas. 
With this creation, with its intellectual roots and ramifica- 
tions, with the influences it has exerted, and with the trans- 
formations which it has undergone, it will now be our task 
to make ourselves acquainted. 






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